Electric vehicles (EV) seem to be everywhere these days. As Secretary Moniz highlighted last week, plug-in hybrid sales doubled in the first six months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012 -- and sales are only expected to grow as the next generation of cars and grid systems demonstrate even greater cost saving for consumers.

That is why the Energy Department launched a new center last week that will work to ensure that vehicles, charging stations, communications and networking systems work in unison with the electric grid. The Electric Vehicle-Smart Grid Interoperability Center, located at Argonne National Laboratory just outside of Chicago, will work to harmonize emerging EV and smart grid technologies.

Why is this important? The emergence of EVs brings new economic opportunities for local utilities. Large-scale capital investment by companies for the deployment of EVs, chargers and the smart grid will depend on the ability of consumers to conveniently, safely and securely charge -- anywhere, anytime. This will require close linkages between the automotive and utility industries as new demand for electricity brings the need for new investments in power generation and grid systems.

Leveraging Argonne’s EV and battery expertise, the new center will focus on three key areas:

  1. Establishing requirements and test procedures to assess EV-electric vehicle supply equipment compatibility;
  2. Developing and verifying connectivity technologies, communication protocols and standards; and
  3. Identifying gaps where new standards or technologies are needed for solutions using proof-of-concept hardware/software systems.

The work at Argonne will also be complemented by the launch of a European Interoperability Center by the European Commission's (EC) Joint Research Center at facilities in Ispra, Italy, and Petten, Netherlands, in 2014. Employing common test procedures, interoperability standards and test comparisons, the U.S. government and EC will work together to ensure harmonized technologies and to prevent unnecessary regulatory divergence, helping foster the development of the transatlantic EV market and create new jobs.

These efforts support coordinated initiatives under the U.S.-EU Energy Council and Transatlantic Economic Council. For more on the Electric Vehicle-Smart Grid Interoperability Center, visit Argonne’s website.