Who Revived The Electric Car?


The MAGIC Team did. MAGIC stands for Mid Atlantic Grid Interactive Car, and they just resurrected the EV in a hot "wired" incarnation, with V2G technology on board.

"For a new technology to be truly effective it must have the appearance of magic." Remember that line from Mosquito Coast? It's still true.

MAGIC revived the electric car, in vehicle to grid (V2G) incarnation, by applying a jolt of AC and adding Internet connectivity, after implanting top of the line rechargeable batteries, network interface, and some amazing power controls. This particular resurrection is no rich man's sports car either (although this one and the famed Tesla share some EV technology). Externally, and in the passenger compartment, it's more like a wired green box for the masses, with a webby twist.

MAGIC's "eBox" is a modified Scion xB, custom re-manufactured by AC Propulsion, that relies solely on an alternating current (AC) motor for propulsion. So, of course, there's no exhaust pipe, and no fuel port. With ICE engine, transmission, and fuel systems gone, and the new V2G and propulsion systems added, curb weight is roughly 20% above the OEM's designed weight.

When it's parked and connected to the power grid, however, this car is also connected to, and interacts with, third parties, via Internet. "What's up with that," you're thinking? No big brother stuff. This is about greening the grid.

Hang with us and we'll give you the details, in a series of posts, beginning with this overview.
"No more fuel port."

Once plugged into the grid, PJM Interconnect, a regional transmission organization, is able to send power dispatch commands to eBox over the Internet enabling it to participate in the PJM "regulation market." We're not talking about government regulation here, either. The 'power regulation' market is set up to balance numerous power supply and demand entities and cope with equipment performance variations to keep regional grids operating efficiently. Here's more about PJM if you're interested.


"The MAGIC box."

Keep in mind that if we diversify our power sources - by now our readers understand the need to incorporate wind farms and solar or geothermal plants that operate relatively intermittently - we also need cost-effective ways to balance the power and condition it to keep the grid reliable for all users. MAGIC technology avoids having to rely only on big base load generators and fixed switching devices to accomplish that. It's an idea that no other electric vehicle designed to date has ever approached. Put thousands of them on the road, and the MAGIC fleet helps manage the power to make fixed generators of renewable electricity a welcome addition to the grid of the future. That's what is meant by "Greening The Grid."

The magicians deepest secret:- eBox will respond to network commands by charging or discharging its battery through an on-board inverter, in short bursts, to help balance supply and demand on the PJM grid. Owners will be able to set boundaries on those commands.

The MAGIC Consortium was formed to develop the technology allowing electric vehicles to interact with the grid. Its members include the University of Delaware, Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI), Delmarva Light & Power (DPL), Atlantic City Electric (ACE), AC Propulsion, Comverge Inc., Atlantic Counties Utility Authority (ACUA) and PJM.

PJM has been providing technical support to the consortium to enable the technical advancement of the vehicle and to demonstrate how the grid can facilitate plug-and-play technology.

Although the technology is in its early developmental stages, PJM is working to make sure that vehicle to grid (V2G) technology is capable of interacting reliably with the bulk power system. Maintaining the reliability of the system is driving PJM’s role in facilitating technologies to support such Smart Grid concepts.

Update: Comverge, Inc also is a primary participant of the MAGIC core team. Although Comverge, Inc does not have a magnetic sign on the car door (pictured), it is working on the "aggregation platform development" that will make this commercially feasible for the concept to work with average consumer/commuters and commercial fleets plugging in to the PJM managed grid.

MAGIC is currently in the first of three phases of the project, connecting test-vehicles to the PJM Automatic Generation Control (AGC) signal. MAGIC has committed funding to convert a total of five cars and one bus to be able to interact with the grid in this phase. It is seeking funding for a fleet of 300 cars, collectively able to provide 3 MW.

By the final phase of the project, MAGIC hopes to have the V2G program self-sufficient within OEM vehicle manufacturers, power aggregators, and ISOs.

The key MAGIC Project Principals are listed here. We'll introduce them to you in subsequent posts.

Dr. Willett Kempton, University of Delaware
Dr. Victor Udo, PHI
Len Beck, PHI
Clay Anderson, PHI
Kevin Komara, PJM

Update:: Ooops. Nearly forgot to add how eBox "greens" your wallet. The typical auto is driven 1 or 2 hours per day on average. For the remaining hours, assuming the eBox can 'plug and play' at a regular parking spot, each owner will earn several thousand dollars per year, it is estimated. And yes, the battery will still be charged when you need to drive home.

For public relations contacts on MAGIC and the eBOX, please email Paula DuPont-Kidd.

For technical information on the project, please email Jackie Piero at the University of Delaware.

Image credits::TreeHugger, with permission of the MAGIC team

Tags: Delaware | New Jersey | Pennsylvania