The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Electric Power Research Institute recently unveiled an electric vehicle (EV) charging station that can also make electricity from sunlight, store electricity and put electricity back in the power grid when needed. The prototype Smart Modal Area Recharge Terminal (or SMART station), developed by TVA and EPRI, is among the first public EV charging stations with all these features.

Located at EPRI's Knoxville Research Laboratory, the station demonstrated its capabilities while charging EVs built by General Motors, Mitsubishi and Nissan.

TVA and EPRI broke ground on the SMART station in June. Oak Ridge National Laboratory and local power companies are partners in the project. A second prototype is being built by the national laboratory in Oak Ridge.

The charging stations will be tested for three to six months before additional stations, with a total of 125 charging spaces, are built in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville, and possibly other sites over the next few years. Initially, access to the stations will be limited to researchers.

The new charging station will feature:

  • Six parking spaces, each supplying enough power to charge most EVs in three to eight hours, depending on the make of the vehicle.

  • An electric plug designated the industry standard by the Society of Automotive.

  • About 2 kW of solar photovoltaic panels per charging space.

  • About 5 kWh of stationary battery storage per charging space to assist vehicle charging and send power to the grid during periods of peak electricity demand. The batteries also will support the local power grid by lessening the effects of charging multiple cars in one location.

  • Advanced measurement and controls that will collect data about charging EVs.

The SMART stations will be used over time to study various aspects of EV charging, including consumer behavior, the impact on the electricity system, infrastructure design and development, and testing different stationary batteries. TVA and EPRI also will assess electric vehicles' potential to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

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