Monday, July 21, 2014

Smart City

The chain-smoking bearded fellow in this picture is Jaime Briales Guerrero, who works for the Agencia Municipal de la Energía in Málaga.

Briales is an impressive and enthusiastic advocate of electric vehicles and smart grids. Between drags from his cigarette (which somehow adds to his gravitas), he explained to us that Málaga presently has a very small number of EVs, which pose no real challenges to the electrical grid... but significant electrification of transit, on the scale of, say, 25% of vehicles, would lead to possibly catastrophic demands on the grid. Hence Málaga's participation in a very interesting project, Zem2all, funded by a generous grant from the Japanese government, to study electric cars and how different kinds of consumers would use them and adapt to them.

One issue being examined in the project is how important it is to have super-fast charging stations, as opposed to letting people charge their car overnight at home or all day at work. Elon Musk's vision for Tesla, for example, seems to be that you will be able to "gas up" your EV in not much more time than it would take to gas up your Civic. Jaime's view, based on their early findings, is a little different: Most EV drivers readily adapt to the regime of planning their slow charging... fast charges are reserved for emergencies and unanticipated contingencies.

Another dimension being explored by Zem2all is the possibility of using EVs as storage devices in a smarter grid. For example, your car is sitting at home fully charged, and you receive a text from your friendly local power company: "We need some juice... Could we pay you to tap a little bit of your car's electricity for the grid?"

Málaga has some other very interesting energy conservation projects, including its smart grid Smart City Málaga project. Pretty cool, and unexpectedly well ahead of Silicon Valley. I like this town.

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