A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid vehicle with rechargeable batteries that can be restored to full charge by connecting a plug to an external electric power source. A PHEV shares the characteristics of both a conventional hybrid electric vehicle, having an electric motor and an internal combustion engine; and of an all-electric vehicle, also having a plug to connect to the electrical grid. The cost for electricity to power plug-in hybrids for all-electric operation has been estimated at less than one quarter of the cost of gasoline. Compared to conventional vehicles, PHEVs can reduce air pollution, dependence on petroleum and fossil fuels, and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Even if the PHEV is charged by plugging into an electric utility where coal is the predominant fuel used to generate electricity, the result is still positive.

With a recent hike in gas price and the concern about global warming, major automotive manufacturers have introduced plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) into the world market. As Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs) take a greater share in the personal automobile market (one estimate puts it at 1.3 million by 2013 in the US), their penetration levels may bring potential challenges to electric utility especially at the distribution level, by increasing the peak demand of the distribution network, which is already stressed to a great extent.

Addressing a core issue of accommodating and managing the penetration of electric vehicles in the electric power distribution network - is witnessing immense research activity in the area of PHEVs. The context of research activity is exemplified by the following questions:

  • Where and when will the Electric Vehicles (EV) be charged?
  • What is the impact on the electric power distribution network?
  • Is there a way to manage other household loads to accept more electric vehicles?
  • Do we need regulations and incentives to manage this load?

CEAGE is actively researching the solutions that would contribute towards answering part of  the questions listed above.