Electric car chargers to be installed at UC Berkeley for study on driver preferences

uc berkeley charging station
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Eight electric vehicle chargers are headed to the UC Berkeley campus to help researchers understand the charging preferences of electric car drivers.

Located in the Recreational Sports Facility, or RSF, parking lot, the charging station will be the latest installment of campus civil and environmental engineering associate professor Scott Moura’s Smart LeaRning Pilot for Electric Vehicles, or SlrpEV, project.

“What we hope to more deeply understand is behavior around electric vehicle charging,” Moura said. “What do people value when they’re charging their electric vehicles?”

There are currently two SlrpEV charging stations at the SunPower office in San Jose and on the UC San Diego campus, and UC Berkeley will be the third location, according to the SlrpEV website.

According to Moura, the chargers will offer two options for charging electric cars as part of the experiment. The first, MAX, charges the vehicle as quickly as possible. The second option, FLEX, has the user input the time they want to leave and the level of charge they want. It then proceeds to efficiently fulfill that charge when the electric grid has less traffic, thus reducing emissions.

While the SlrpEV project is funded mostly by energy companies with an interest in electric vehicle charging, all the money raised by the charging station will go back into the grid to make future charging cheaper. The funders include Total S.A., which is the energy company that owns SunPower, UC Berkeley Parking and Transportation and Kitu Systems, a software company.

The SlrpEV team hopes to find out what electric vehicle drivers value most by offering different types of charging and varied prices.

Parking spots in Berkeley are hard to come by, which leads Seamus Wilmot, UC Berkeley director of Parking and Transportation, to believe that some people may not be willing to give up the SlrpEV spots once they are done charging their vehicles.

Moura echoed this sentiment by citing a comment from a research participant: “We don’t live in a charging desert, we live in a parking desert.”

In addition to electric vehicles pretending to “faux-charge,” as Moura calls it, the spots run the risk of being taken by nonelectric, gasoline-powered vehicles. Moura said researchers have faced this issue, which he calls “ICE-ing” in reference to the internal combustion engines of the nonelectric cars, at the UCSD charging station.

A parking authority can issue a ticket if alerted of a vehicle in an electric charging spot that is not actually charging, regardless of whether or not it is an electric car, although Moura said the research team may look into “softer” ways to dissuade this behavior, such as an email alert.

German Perea, a UC Berkeley class of 2020 graduate who started as a research assistant for the SlrpEV project in June 2019, emphasized the importance of this research in terms of promoting sustainable energy.

“This is an exciting project because we, bears, care about reducing emissions,” Perea said in an email.

Contact Claire Daly at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @DalyClaire13.