EV Charging Stations Play An Integral Role In Smart Grid Technology

Posted on February 10th, 2011 by
   

Eric Krichbaum, COO & Sr. VP of Operations for Milbank, discusses a new strategic partnership with AeroVironment to manufacture and market an electric vehicle charging station and the impact that EV charging stations will have on the smart grid.

Full Transcription:

Ben Lack: I’m with Eric Krichbaum from Milbank. Thanks a lot for being with us today.
Eric Krichbaum: My pleasure.
Ben Lack: Give us a little bit of history on who Milbank is.
Eric Krichbaum: Milbank was started 84 years ago in Kansas City. Its third generation ownership privately held. The primary product line was the electrical meter socket, very similar to what you have on the side of your house. That’s our core product platform. About twenty years ago we expanded into commercial and industrial enclosures– your basic standard type, as well as some custom built. About four years ago, we decided that we needed to expand our business even further from some immature markets that were in the day and start getting into some of the alternative energy sources. One of the things we were talking about as we were developing our product portfolio– stand-by generators, wind turbines, car chargers, and other things that we might be having such as solar — we began to discuss the issue of what’s called distributive car generation or microgrid. As customers are putting into play these multiple types of technologies, the question becomes how do they function as a system instead of just individual piece of equipment that had no way of communicating with each other. So one of the concepts that we’re working on is these integrated automatic transfers, which is what we call today, but it combines the ability to provide intelligence in a module here that communicates with various forms of power. It could be your grid going into your house load. You can have a stand by generator or solar panel, maybe electrical vehicle charger, as well as a wind turbine in this example. And what this system allows you to do is establish parameters with how you want your microgrid to function. So if you want to say, for instance, have the lowest cost power possible, you can establish parameters that the intelligence will now say “Well, when am I utilizing which piece of equipment if I want to have the greenest power possible?” I can establish a different set of parameters to utilize my alternative sources mostly. An example here that we’re running shows how in a continuous basis on the top, you had the house power usage. As the line goes up, that’s utilizing more power. The second line, the blue line, is the solar panel. The middle line, the green, is the actual electrical grid. And in this case it’s showing a multi-tiered charging. So, you have low cost and during the peak part of the day they’re charging you the higher rate and then the intermediate rate later. And this shows an example of a power outage: You have a generator, a stand-by generator, and then possibly an electrical vehicle charger. In this case, instead of these things just out there functioning independently, you actually can tie them together and have your intelligence make decisions. For instance, here in the morning when the house is waking up and using more power, you’ve charged the car at night when the power is cheap off the grid but now you’re going to actually borrow some power from the car. Now, we have that capability that cars today don’t provide that functionality but there’s been some discussion about being able to do that. So, we can actually utilize that power source to shave some of the peak load when the power from the grid is the highest. Then later on you can see here, when we had an actual grid outage, we can turn on the stand by generator to cover that need. The solar panel starts to work in the middle of the day and we use that power to actually recharge our car. So, this is a functionality and a capability that we’re developing. It’s not a saleable product yet but we’re out trying to get some information from possible customers in terms of what kind of value could this bring to you, what kind of functionality would you like to see from a communications within your equipment as well as externally, and then continue to take this product through development.
Ben Lack: So talk to us about this new announcement that you guys have.
Eric Krichbaum: Well AeroVironment, we actually started talking to them a few years ago about some of their wind turbine capabilities. That didn’t really pan out but as it turns out, they’re very innovative and have a long history in the electrical power and vehicle market as well as the charging. And they felt that we had an opportunity to work with them and through our distribution and their product innovation where we could work together and bring those products to market much easier.
Ben Lack: And the product that you guys are partnering on, talk to us a little more about that.
Eric Krichbaum: Well, we got the full range of car chargers in Level 2 as well as Level 3. The units that we have here is the Level 2. This will be similar to what you might have in your house if you do buy electrical vehicle and have it in your garage. This particular configuration would be more of a commercial installation in an outside maybe in front of a store. We all some have different configurations that can service different types of applications. Your Level 2 would be a charge for a basic homeowner, slower charge maybe four hours to completely re-charge a battery. They also have products that will charge much faster, a Level 3 type charger which can charge in a matter of minutes. There are commercial applications where if you don’t want to provide the power for free but have a charging capability with a credit card, you can also have products that have those applications.
Ben Lack: And how are you guys planning to roll the new partnership out? Are you piloting products, merging the product with existing clients, are you going after new clients?
Eric Krichbaum: We’re actually going to be tapping into our distribution network, our electrical wholesale distribution network as well as retail. Now we already have the product and we have those channels to market. We’ve got some very good feedback from our distribution partners. We’re going to start working with them. We’re training our folks initially and then going out and beginning to work and train with these distributors so they can sell to their contractors and their customers.
Ben Lack: Talk to us a little bit about alternative energy and what parts of the country are more adept to trying to adapt alternative energy technologies into their fleets of businesses or even their homes.
Eric Krichbaum: Yes, different technologies and alternative energy, of course. In some case it may make sense to go with the wind technology. Others maybe solar. The electric car is generally focused in those areas where the cost for gasoline is quite high and as well as the cost of electricity. See, you can combine those two needs and look at solutions where you’re maybe using solar to provide some power as well as the electric car charging.
Ben Lack: And is the charger going to work for any type of electric car?
Eric Krichbaum: Actually the auto industry, the electric car industry, has established some standards. So, the devices will plug in to any of the cars that are going to be coming out and using our electrical chargers. So there is that standardization where one particular protocol won’ take preference over another.
Ben Lack: And have any of the big named brands tested it?
Eric Krichbaum: Yes. Actually, AeroVironment had established their relationship with the Nissan LEAF and so through that connection they’ve already started putting in installations under the AeroVironment name with that attachment to Nissan. But the Chevy Volt will also have the capability of using this technology.
Ben Lack: Eric, I’m interested why you personally find the industry fascinating.
Eric Krichbaum: The thing about the industry is that it’s growing. It’s changing. Now it also can be scary because where is it going to end up? So you have to be willing to take some risks and look at where you can play in that market and how can you bring some value to your market. It’s also just trying to understand where the real interest is going to go and who’s going to be making the decisions. How is it going to affect utilities, distributors, consumers? There’s going to be a lot of change in this area, no doubt. And we want to be part of that change so that we can grow Milbank in the future.
Ben Lack: Well, Eric thanks so much for being with us today. I appreciate your time. We’ll talk to you soon.
Eric Krichbaum: You bet. Thanks for stopping by.

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