Michigan State University researchers in East Lansing have received a National Science Foundation grant for $500,000 to continue their work designing smart cities with infrastructure and policies to support the creation of an electric vehicle charging station network within Michigan and throughout the U.S.
By 2030, there will be an estimated 18.7 million electric vehicles (EVs) on U.S. roads with the goal of reducing the nation’s carbon dioxide levels at least 50 percent below 2005 levels. Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Transportation made $7.5 billion available to develop an EV charging network across the country that is convenient, reliable, and affordable.
“The goal of this NSF project is to advance the understanding of and develop tools to guide how EV charging infrastructure impacts the sustainability and equity of people between urban and rural regions,” says Dong Zhao, an associate professor in the School of Planning, Design and Construction at MSU. “The investment in EV charging infrastructure not only reflects financial and economic decisions but also environmental and social decisions, as they influence regional sustainability and equity across urban and rural areas.”
Zhao and his team will consider individual issues like how EV charging will impact peoples’ daily lives commuting to work or making a quick trip to the grocery store. But they also will examine broader issues related to where everyone will charge their cars and where EV charging stations should be located.
“Current decision-making models and tools for infrastructure investment focus on economic and engineering efficiency and rarely consider region-level environment and equity,” Zhao says. “This project will create a geographic information system or GIS-based decision system that will integrate regional economic and engineering efficiency, environmental sustainability and social equity into the EV charging infrastructure planning and design.”
The researchers use a smart city approach considering multiple layers of information in forming their recommendations, including energy use, sustainability, fuel consumption, social equity, rural versus urban locations, and decision and policy making. The research and recommendations Zhao’s team develops will provide city planners, engineers, and policymakers a more complete picture of the issues, needs and best practices surrounding the installation of EV charging stations. The team has conducted previous research studies focused on Detroit and Grand Rapids to examine smart city infrastructure and technology.
“We want to create intelligent computational models to optimize the design and construction of EV charging stations,” Zhao says. “We use Michigan as our test, but this information can be applied to the whole nation.”