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Smart Energy Plaza

Driving the next era of transportation research.

Argonne’s Smart Energy Plaza, home to the laboratory’s Interoperability Center, is a fully renovated and repurposed gas station designed to conduct research on the integration and management of EV charging, renewables, building systems, and energy storage. The facility can accommodate a range of equipment, with grid-connected power up to 2 MW and 80 kW of solar power available via various voltage busways in the building (commercial 480VAC and 208VAC, residential 240/120VAC, and DC distribution).

Inside, two vehicle bays have direct access to the busways. The electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) located outside the building includes twelve L2 AC, one 50 kW DC, one 200 kW DC and two 350 kW DC. The 350 kW DC EVSE are linked to a 1 MW, 30-minute battery to support high power grid integration studies.

The Interoperability Center was established in 2013 to facilitate cooperative research in support of transatlantic harmonization of EV-charger-network compatibility, in the interest of multinational trade. The international focus has evolved over time, but Argonne’s research has supported development of interoperability standards and test procedures as well as enabling technologies such as energy management systems, smart charging devices, metering, and diagnostics.


Responsive to Changing Needs

In response to the shifting interests of the DOE Vehicle Technologies Office, the Interoperability Center has placed greater emphasis on grid integration and the impact of high-power charging. Similarly, European interests have shifted, and the current focus is high-power charging test procedures.

Interoperability testing has evolved over time as well, from an early project conducted by Intertek with Argonne oversight (to connect a limited set of vehicles and EVSE available at that time to see if charging was initiated), to specific smart charging functionality and cyber testing of EVSE planned for deployment to support customer incentive programs by utilities in designated territories. These activities have been carried out with a limited number of vehicles/EVSE targeting specific research objectives; this complements certification testing of articles that might be performed by organizations such as UL, Intertek or TUV, as it is not a role of national laboratories to certify products.

Seeing Things in a New Way

In 2018, Argonne researchers and site sustainability personnel remodeled the laboratory’s old gas station building and parking lot — dating to the 1970s — to create the Smart Energy Plaza. In addition to the EVSE supporting the Interoperability Center research, the renovation included the installation of high-efficiency glazing, a climate control system, lighting, and a repurposed EV battery for energy storage in the building. Argonne also implemented a rainwater gutter system for the canopies and stormwater drainage system for surface drainage.

The Smart Energy Plaza utilizes an integrated communication and control system to support the development of energy management strategies based on the energy generated onsite, building energy use, and the demands of EV charging. Argonne’s work at its former gas station supports clean and environmentally friendly EV transportation and demonstrates the collaborative power between DOE’s researchers and site sustainability programs.