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Electric Vehicle Technology in the IEEE -Dr. Russell Lefevre

One of the earliest gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles was developed by an important IEEE member, named Victor Wouk. He and his partners converted a Buick Skylark into a hybrid automobile that was shown in 1974.  His primary motivation for pursuing hybrid technology was to reduce green house gas emissions, and the automobile was capable of obtaining 85 miles per gallon of gas. In that time frame, gas was inexpensive and emission controls weren’t a concern, and his funding eventually ran out.  Wouk continued to promote hybrid vehicles throughout his illustrious  career as an electrical engineer and entrepreneur, including the submission of many articles in IEEE conferences and IEEE Spectrum magazine. Victor Wouk is often referred to as “the Godfather of the hybrid car.”

Looking Back

Dr. Wouk’s vehicle is known as a forerunner to today’s hybrid  plug-in  electric  vehicles,  and  he,  along  with many other  IEEE members, have been involved from the beginning of electric vehicle development. The earliest   related   document   in   the   IEEE   Electronic Library  (IEL)  entitled  “Petro-Electric  Motor  Vehicles” by JBG Damoiseau was written in 1913.  The IEL itself holds  an  excess of  4000   articles  related  to  Electric Vehicles   and  more  than  1,800   articles  on  batteries for EVs.

Electric Vehicles Today

Many major automakers, including Toyota, Audi, BMW, Coda, Fisker, Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi,  Nissan, Rolls Royce and  Volvo,  have recently  announced that  they will  introduce electric  vehicles in  2011.  Although this indicates  confidence  that  there  will   be  demand  for electric vehicles, and there are surveys supporting that confidence, there still remains skepticism as to whether the  Obama Administration’s  stated goal of  1,000,000 Plug-In  Hybrid  Electric  Vehicles  (PHEV)  by 2015  can be met.

One reason for this  skepticism is  the recognition that light   cars  and  trucks  tend  to  stay  on  the  road  for many  years. As  such,  in  order  to  achieve this  lofty goal, there  will  likely  have to  be  incentives  to  move to EVs or PHEVs more rapidly than has historically been possible. The Electrification Coalition, a consortium of 14 influential business leaders, released an Electrification Roadmap in November of 2009, setting a goal that 75 percent of  light  duty  Vehicle  Miles  Traveled (VMT)  by 2040  will be electric.

The Roadmap envisions a federal initiative  to establish  Electrification  Ecosystems (EE) in  several American cities – meaning cities or regions in which each of  the  elements necessary for  the  successful deployment of  Grid  Electric  Vehicles  (GEV)  would be deployed simultaneously in  high concentrations.

The Roadmap envisions the establishment of six to eight EEs for the deployment of 700,000   GEVs by 2013 using a combination of government subsidies for consumers and utilities, installation of a public charging network and other measures of support.

These ecosystems would allow participants to learn which business models work for supplying, selling, and servicing GEVs and help create economies of scale. The lessons learned would then be exported to other communities thus lowering the cost of deployment and accelerating national deployment rates.

The Roadmap was so influential that the US Congress took up its main recommendation in two bills. In the Senate, the  bill  was “Promoting  Electric  Vehicles Act of 2010” S. 3511,  which was passed out of the Energy and Natural Resources on July 21  by a vote of 19-4,  indicating  strong bipartisan support. Much of the bill language was then taken up by the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and introduced into the “Clean  Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act of 2010” S. 3663, the major energy bill currently under consideration by the Senate.

In the House of Representatives  there is legislation similar to S. 3511,  the “Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act  of  2010”,   H.R.  5442.   This  bill with bipartisan sponsorship has been referred to the appropriate committees.

From a global perspective, there are at least 18 countries including  the European Union that  are involved in Electric Vehicle development and expansion. For example, France has set a goal of 100,000   electric  vehicles sold by 2012  and Spain has a goal of 1,000,000 by 2014. China has targeted electric vehicle manufacturing as a strategic industry, and many other countries have programs with varying degrees of focus.

As worldwide interest in  deploying electric vehicles grows, IEEE has organized its  intellectual  property  articles  in  journals  and  magazines and  papers presented in  our conferences – to better serve the electric vehicle community. This article is intended to identify  areas of expertise that  will  move that process forward.


One  of  the  most  important   technologies  in   the electric vehicle industry is the battery. Historically they  have been large, heavy, and  expensive, with limited  lifespan. IEEE members have played a major part in their development, beginning as early as the 1900s.  Ongoing battery technology advancements have subsequently reduced many of these problems.

In  the 2010  Transactions on Vehicular  Technology, A.  Khaligh  and  Z.  Li  presented the  State  of  the Art  of  electric  vehicle storage systems. The paper entitled   “Battery,   Ultracapacitor,   Fuel  Cell,   and Hybrid Energy Storage Systems for Electric,  Hybrid Electric, Fuel Cell, and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles:  State  of  the  Art”  addresses the  battery situation but more importantly looks at the broader issue  that  encompasses the  full   energy storage system technology.

A report on the results of testing batteries for the National  Renewable Energy Laboratory entitled “Evaluation  of Lithium  Iron Phosphate Batteries for Electric Vehicles Application” by FP Tredeau, et al in the Proceedings of the Vehicle Power and Propulsion Conference 2009,  discusses the testing of Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries for Electric  Vehicles.  160 batteries were extensively  tested and evaluated. The results indicated that lithium polymer cells show very good performance and may become the preferred battery type as manufacturing improves.

Battery Management  Systems (BMS) Although the battery itself is a dominant technology in EV deployment, BMS also has a major role. A BMS controls the charging and discharging of the battery while   guaranteeing  reliable  and  safe  operation. One critical  element in the design of the BMS is a model of  the  complicated  hardware, software and algorithms that determine how the BMS operates. A new modeling approach can be seen in “Algorithms for  Advanced Battery  Management Systems,”   by N.A. Chaturvedi, et al in the June 2010 IEEE Control Systems Magazine.

Power Electronics

Electric vehicles put much greater demand on power electronics   technology  than   conventional   fossil fuel  powered automobiles. In  many cases (e.g., hybrid internal combustion/electric drive vehicles), optimized power electronics suites are essential. Significant  advances in  power electronics have helped reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of electric vehicles. “Power Electronics Intensive Solutions for Advanced Electric, Hybrid Electric, and Fuel Cell Vehicular  Power Systems”  by A. Emadi in May 2006  IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics shows how the integration of intensive power electronics solutions within  advanced vehicular power systems achieves that goal.

Emadi’s  assessment shows how the  present automotive electric system is inadequate for the more electric environment of future systems due to expense and inefficiency.  In more electric vehicles (MEV) there is a trend toward expanding electrical loads and replacement of mechanical and hydraulic systems with  more electrical  systems. The list  of functions to be carried out and controlled by the power electronics system is  very long.  The MEVs will need highly reliable and fault-tolerant electrical systems to deliver high quality power from the source to the electrical  loads. His paper notes that  there remains significant  room for improvement to reach an optimal design, and touches on advanced power electronic converters and motor drives as potential means of improvement.

Impact on the Grid

A very important  consideration in  the deployment of  EVs   is  the  impact  on  the  current  electrical grid and ultimately on the Smart Grid. IEEE has published papers addressing many elements of this issue including  the requirement for new hardware and software by utilities  and users, how time-of- use electricity rates affect consumer behavior, the impact  on regional electricity  supply in  countries including  Canada, the United  Kingdom, Portugal, Belgium, Spain and other aspects of the problem. One very important issue is how the evolution of the current grid structure to the Smart Grid will enable solutions to potential problems.

Many of the studies addressing this  issue have focused on specific  areas of  interest or concern. Since EVs  and PHEVs  are not yet in  the fleet  in large numbers, the studies are based on analyses and  simulations  using  what  is  known about  EVs and PHEVs and the capacity of the present grid as inputs and using the inputs and models to make projections of future capability to predict future situations.  These are then  used to  help  develop solutions that are robust and flexible enough to meet the projected influx of significant numbers of EVs and PHEVs.

An  indication  of  the  level of  uncertainty  of  how the introduction  of EVs  and PHEVs will  affect the grid is shown in “Speed Bumps Ahead for Electric- Vehicle   Charging”   by  P.  Fairley  in  the  January 2010  IEEE Spectrum online. Important leaders in the  utility   industry  demonstrated a  concern that the  present grid  will  show major  problem  areas that may not crash the grid but could cause local problems. Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric are working with the Electric Power Research Institute  to predict likely problem areas to help the utilities  prepare for the future.

“Impacts  of Plug-in Vehicles  and Distributed Storage on  Electric  Power Delivery Networks”  by  P.  Evans et  al  in  the  Proceedings of  the  Vehicle  Power and Propulsion Conference 2009  reports on the results of a study funded by the Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It is demonstrated that potential adverse impacts from charging batteries in PHEVs can have significant local effects. However the conclusion reached is that  when such a situation is identified it can be readily managed.

A paper that presents the trends in  analysis, design and evaluation of PHEVs in the future smart grid environment is  “Challenges  of  PHEV  Penetration to the Residential Distribution  Network”  by S. Shao et al in the Proceedings of the Power and Energy Society General Meeting 2009.  Here the authors identify enabling technologies including bi-directional charging units and bi-directional meters, communication between the vehicle and the energy management center, intelligent  on board power management unit and intelligent  energy management center. These technologies are envisioned as an integral part of the smart grid.

Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G)

As electric vehicles become widely deployed the concept of allowing plug-in vehicles to be capable of vehicle-to-grid operation where the power electronics allows for bi-directional  capability  becomes an important technology. That is, it  must be capable of taking power during charging and providing power while  discharging from  and to  the  grid.  There is  a worthy summary of the technology and a brief  note of the economic implications in “A Review of Plug-In Vehicles and Vehicle-to-Grid Capability” by B. Kramer, et al in  the Proceedings Annual Conference of IEEE Industrial Electronics in 2008.  The article is based on work at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The authors also note that  wide spread use of V2G could be a significant enabling factor for increasing use of wind energy.


IEEE has had an emphasis on technology research, collaboration and advancements related to electric vehicles since the early 20th century, and its involvement to date still  matches Victor Wouk’s original enthusiasm for   the   advancement   of the  electric  vehicle.  Many

IEEE members across the globe are at the forefront of research and development of the technologies mentioned  above,  while  others  are  helping  drive the manufacturing and delivery of technology for deployment, while still  others are dedicated to ensuring interoperability  standards. This article  has provided a very abbreviated level description of the depth and breadth of the IEEE participation. Interested parties are encouraged to contact the author. (NOTE: David Goldstein, an IEEE member and President of the Electric  Vehicle  Association of Washington, DC, alerted me to the contributions of Victor Wouk.)

About the Author

Dr. Russell Lefevre has a B.S. and a M.S. in Physics from the University of North Dakota and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is a Fellow of the IEEE. He is Adjunct Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering at the University of North Dakota. Dr. Lefevre is a Past President of IEEE-USA and the IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society. He is Chair of the IEEE Steering Committee on Electric Vehicles. He can be reached at: