May 182011
 
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) diagram

Image by Argonne National Laboratory via Flickr

Researchers at the University of Southampton have designed a new pricing mechanism that could change the way in which electric vehicles are charged. It is based on an online auction protocol that makes it possible to charge electric vehicles without overloading the local electricity network.

The paper entitled Online Mechanism Design for Electric Vehicle Charging was presented this week at AAMAS 2011 — the Tenth Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, and outlines a system where electric vehicle owners use computerised agents to bid for the power to charge the vehicles and also organise time slots when a vehicle is available for charging.

Dr Alex Rogers, University of Southampton computer scientist and one of the paper’s authors, says: “Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are expected to place a considerable strain on local electricity distribution networks. If many vehicles charge simultaneously, they may overload the local distribution network, so their charging needs to be carefully scheduled.”

To address this issue, Dr Rogers and his team turned to the field of online mechanism design. They designed a mechanism that allows vehicle owners to specify their requirements (for example, when they need the vehicle and how far they expect to drive). The system then automatically schedules charging of the vehicles’ batteries. The mechanism ensures that there is no incentive to ‘game the system’ by reporting that the vehicle is need earlier than is actually the case, and those users who place a higher demand on the system are automatically charged more than those who can wait.

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