FedEx took part in a research initiative with New York-based utility Con Edison, General Electric and Columbia University aimed at making charging big fleets of electric vehicles (EVs) more energy-efficient and less expensive.
The partners worked to show how smart grid technology in charging stations can track and manage the power flow to EVs in a way that saves energy and reduces a vehicle owner's energy bill.
‘The number of electric vehicles on the road is growing, and that's good for our customers and good for the environment,’ says John Shipman, who heads EV programs for Con Edison. ‘The technology in this project helps a fleet owner get the power its customers need while saving money on electricity. In today's competitive business world, companies that can reduce their energy costs have an edge.’
Large utility customers pay ‘demand charges,’ which are charges based on the largest amount of power the customer used at any one time during the month. By controlling its energy usage, a company can cut its peak usage and reduce its demand charges. Con Edison says that can mean considerable savings for a company with a large fleet.
Researchers placed 10 GE-manufactured smart charging stations at a FedEx Express facility in Lower Manhattan. FedEx has 10 all-electric delivery vans with an 80 kWh battery pack at the location.
The chargers communicate with a system designed by GE Global Research and Columbia Engineering's Center for Computational Learning Systems that uses algorithms to predict the building's electricity needs for the day and the juice it will take to power the vehicles.
All this big data lets the chargers adjust the amount of power flow in a way that ensures the FedEx Express trucks will be ready for deliveries while reducing required power in a way that lowers the demand charges.
The partners also applied knowledge they got from the Lower Manhattan project to chargers at another FedEx facility in Midtown Manhattan, where there are six chargers.
The system in Midtown lets the utility monitor the amount of power the customer is using on charging. The utility can request conservation when overall energy demand is highest, helping to keep service reliable for Con Edison's customers.
Con Edison estimates that there are nearly 3,000 EVs in New York City and Westchester County.