Production and Operations Management

Electric Vehicle Virtual Power Plant Dilemma: Grid Balancing Versus Customer Mobility

Journal Article

Virtual power plants (VPP) play a crucial role in balancing the electricity smart grid. VPPs aggregate energy from decentralized sources, for example, biogas, solar panels, or hydropower, to generate and consume electricity on demand. We study the management of electric vehicle (EV) fleets organized in VPPs as a way to address the challenges posed by the inflexible energy supply of renewable sources. In particular, we analyze the potential of parked EVs to absorb electricity from the grid, and provide electricity back to the grid when needed. A fleet owner can either charge, discharge for renting, discharge to the grid, or keep an EV idle. A unique property of our mixed rental‐trading strategy is that decisions are made between making an EV available for rental, where the location within the city matters (drivers want a car to be close to their place of departure or arrival) and for discharging it to the grid, where location does not matter (vehicles can discharge to the grid from any capable charging point). We study the feasibility of VPPs for a fleet of 1500 real EVs on the “Nord Pool Spot,” a North European electricity spot market. A Fourier series approach captures the demand patterns of carsharing vehicles accurately, especially when our weighted objective function with asymmetric payoffs is applied. We show that the VPP can be profitable to fleet owners, ecologically advantageous through reductions in wind power curtailment, and beneficial to consumers by reducing energy expenses.

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