Exelon Corp., one of the nation’s largest utilities, is in partnership with Argonne to fund and pursue clean energy research. Based on this successful, multiyear partnership, Argonne researchers developed the Agent-based Transportation Energy Analysis Model (ATEAM), a large-scale computational model that helps decision makers allocate investment in electrified transportation infrastructure and better serve the needs of consumers who embrace electric vehicle technology.
As both a grid operator and a power provider, Exelon was interested in understanding how electric vehicle adoption and the development of charging infrastructure would co-evolve spatially over a three- to ten-year time frame.
“People talk about electrification and how it’s likely to play an increasing role in transportation,” said Yan (Joann) Zhou, group manager for Vehicle and Energy Technology and Mobility Analysis at Argonne. “If there are a lot of electrified vehicles on the road, they could pose huge charging demands. But if you place chargers in particular locations, it can influence not only driving behavior but also whether people are more likely to adopt electric vehicles.”
In ATEAM, agents, representing individual, organizations, or groups in different Chicagoland communities, make decisions about whether or not to switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric vehicles. These decisions are based on many factors, including whether charging locations are near typical routes taken by drivers in the community. If the driver “sees” more chargers, he/she is more likely to switch over to an electric vehicle.
ATEAM also offers flexibility and the potential for future refinements. Zhou and her colleagues are working with Exelon to diversify agent behavior — including seeing how consumers’ charging behavior is sensitive to the time of day and price of electricity. Additionally, the Argonne researchers seek to extend the model to locations outside the Chicagoland area.
One unintentional drawback of this system comes from the fact that it could result in an inequitable distribution of chargers, in which wealthier neighborhoods have increasing access to charging infrastructure while poorer neighborhoods are left with a sparser network. According to Zhou, ATEAM gives researchers and urban planners the ability to tackle these issues directly by finding effective ways to balance social equity concerns.
By examining trends from all 50 states over the past ten years, ATEAM provides insights into the potential growth in electrified transportation over the medium to long term. “Our analysis of trends from California, Norway and elsewhere shows there’s still a lot of room for growth,” Zhou said.
Argonne is looking to expand the model’s capabilities to predict and analyze electrified transportation behavior and infrastructure demand in other major cities. This initiative, called Compass, seeks to create new partnerships between the Laboratory and other utilities that could follow the same general blueprint laid out by ATEAM.