The researchers at RMIT University’s EV Living Lab are proactively addressing the challenges of Victoria’s electric vehicle transition.
Earlier this year, RMIT University announced it had received $5.2 million from the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund to develop an electric vehicle (EV) research facility. The EV Living Lab, the first electric vehicle research facility of its kind in the southern hemisphere, is in the process of developing new battery technology and simulating the impacts of widescale electric vehicle adoption on electricity grid loading, prices and the broader system.
The EV Living Lab represents a step forward in understanding the impact of electrification. While the researchers are focused on Victoria, their results will be of interest to organisations and institutions across Australia.
Associate Professor of the School of Engineering at RMIT Mahdi Jalili is the research lead on the project, which also involves Monash and La Trobe universities and industry partners Siemens, City of Melbourne, Centre for New Energy Technologies (C4NET) and CitiPower/Powercor.
Jalili says the lab will be developing battery technology as well as exploring the interaction between electricity networks and transportation systems. For example, it will examine the impact mass electrification will have on electricity grids.
“Consider the impact of making Victoria’s buses electric. With four to five thousand public transport buses in metro Melbourne alone, if they each had a 350 to 400 kWh battery then that equates to around a 1.2 to 1.5 GW network to support them,” says Jalili.
“When you add in private sector transport on top of that, the future demand will be quite significant. There are ways that we can help to manage the load on our grids, and be smarter with charging and the use of electricity for EVs. That’s what we aim to uncover.”
There is hope that EV batteries can offset some of their energy demands by acting as alternative storage devices. Bi-directional vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) technologies could make this possible, but there are still a lot of unknowns.
While it’s true that on average EV batteries have capacity three to four times that of typical home batteries, the impact this technology will have on the car’s battery life is unclear.
“The lab will have cutting-edge technologies, including emulators and simulators for vehicles and batteries that let us test out various charging scenarios based on real world conditions,” says Jalili.
“We’ll also have several battery technologies physically available for researchers and students so they can get hands-on experience and use them in their research.”
Government agencies, vehicle manufacturers, component and parts suppliers, utility companies and retail energy providers are just some of the groups that will be involved with the EV Living Lab and can stand to benefit from its research.
Given that the EV Council of Australia reports that demand for EVs tripled in 2021, the lab is opening at an opportune time. As more organisations and people move away from conventional engines, the lab’s research will help them make the most out of their investments. On top of that, RMIT’s EV Living Lab will provide students with transformative real-world learning experiences through its industry partnerships, says Jalili.
“The EV Living Lab will be a great opportunity for industry partners to find upcoming talent for their teams and for students eager to take their first steps into the growing EV sector.”
Find out more about the EV Living Lab.