Energy Transition

What's the best place to put EV charging stations?

A charging bay for an electric vehicle.

A new computer model can help figure out the best place for EV charging points. Image: Unsplash/Michael Marais

Matt Shipman
Research Communications Lead, University Communications, NC State University
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  • Decisions on the best sites for electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities are complicated, as they have to account for travel flow and user demand, as well as the needs of power grids.
  • Most efforts have focused on one of these areas, but a new computer model tries to find optimal compromises.
  • It shows how powerful charging stations can be without overburdening power grids.
  • The team behind it is in discussions with government officials and power utilities over the development of EV charging infrastructure in the US state of North Carolina.

A new computational model can help determine the optimal places for locating electric vehicle charging facilities.

The model can also show how powerful the electric vehicle (EV) charging stations can be without placing an undue burden on the local power grid.

“Ultimately, we feel the model can be used to inform the development of EV charging infrastructure at multiple levels, from projects aimed at supporting local commuters to charging facilities that serve interstate highway travel,” says Leila Hajibabai, assistant professor in the industrial and systems engineering department at North Carolina State University and corresponding author of a paper on the work in Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering.

Identifying the best sites for charging facilities is a complicated process, since it has to account for travel flow and user demand, as well as the needs of the regional power infrastructure. In other words, where will people use it? And can it be supported by the power grid?

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“We have developed a model that allows planners to optimize these decisions, serving the greatest number of people without taxing the power system,” Hajibabai says.

While a lot of work has been done on how to deploy EV charging facilities, the researchers found that most previous efforts focused on siting these facilities based on what would work best for the power system, or what would work best from a transportation standpoint.

“Very little work has been done that addresses both,” Hajibabai says. “And those cases that looked at both power and transportation systems did not take into account the decisions that users make. Where do they want to charge their vehicles? What are their travel plans?

“The best location for a charging facility from the power system’s standpoint is often not the best location from a transportation systems standpoint. And the best location from a user’s standpoint is often a third option. Our model looks at power systems, transportation systems, and user decision-making in order to find the best compromise.”

The power system component of the model accounts for the limitations of the power distribution network—its power flow, voltage, current, and so on. The transportation component of the overarching model accounts for the number of travelers, the routes that they take when traveling, and how far their vehicles can go before they need to be recharged. To account for user decision-making, the model tries to identify locations that will minimize travel time for users.

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“People often don’t want to go out of their way to charge their vehicles, so our model takes that into account,” Hajibabai says.

The researchers are currently in discussions with state and local government officials, as well as power utilities, to use the model to inform the development of EV charging infrastructure in North Carolina.

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