ZAP Licenses Electric Car Smart Charger Controller Technology from Battelle

April 14, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

ZAP announced that it has licensed the Smart Charger Controller technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. According to ZAP, the technology allows customers to minimize the cost of charging electric vehicles by automatically recharging a vehicle’s battery at times of least demand on the grid and subsequently, least cost to the consumer.

Battelle, an international science and technology organization that manages and operates PNNL for the U.S. Department of Energy, also has granted ZAP the right to sublicense the technology to ZAP Hangzhou. ZAP plans to distribute the new technology as part of its electric vehicle business plan, including through its strategic investor and distribution partner Samyang Optics of Korea.

"We believe this will put us at the cutting edge of charging station technology," said Samyang Optics CEO, Christopher Kang. "I feel that this technology is one of the most critical pieces to make electric cars viable on a large scale."

"ZAP believes the patented smart car charging technology is an important feature to ensure the environmental viability of electric cars," said ZAP Founder and Director of Business Development, Gary Starr.

PNNL publicly announced the Smart Charger Controller technology last year after completing an earlier assessment that showed America’s existing power grid could meet the needs of about 158 million vehicles, or 70% of all U.S. light-duty vehicles, if battery charging was managed to avoid new peaks in electricity demand.

"If a million owners plug in their electric vehicles to recharge after work, it could cause a major strain on the grid," said PNNL engineer Michael Kintner-Meyer. "The Smart Charger Controller technology could prevent those peaks in demand from plug-in vehicles and enable our existing grid to be used more evenly."

Owners program the controller to charge at a specific time of day or night or at a set price point. The controller uses a low-range wireless technology to communicate with the power grid and determine the best and cheapest time to recharge vehicles. By charging vehicles during off-peak times, the controller saves consumers money and helps maximize the capacity of the electrical grid during periods of peak demand.

Previous PNNL studies with household appliances show that "smart" technologies also save the grid from brown-outs with little impact to the consumer. Grid Friendly™ technology inside the Smart Charger Controller senses stress conditions on the grid. When the grid says more power is needed, the controller can temporarily stop charging the vehicle until the stress subsides.

This instant reduction in charging load, multiplied on a large scale with many vehicles, could serve as a shock absorber for the grid and help to incorporate renewable energy like wind and solar. The technology could relieve load instantly and give grid operators time to bring new power generation sources on line to stabilize the grid – a process that usually takes several minutes.

ZAP intends to use the technology for its electric car charging program in the USA, Korea and through its JV in China, ZAP Hangzhou later in 2010.