Opel has inked a research project agreement with the MeRegioMobil consortium to develop three demo versions of the Meriva electric vehicle, with funding from the German Ministry of Economics and Technology. This research project is aimed at integrating EVs as mobile energy storage units in the intelligent power grid (smart grid) of the future.
As part of the project, Opel will have access to MeRegioMobil to research new intelligent charging technologies that could be used on future models. The demo Meriva EVs are equipped with electronic controls that allow high-power recharging either via a 230-volt household current or through a 400-volt three-phase AC.
Moreover, Meriva's charging system is designed to fit into a smart grid as well as allow the recharging of the battery from renewable sources like wind or solar energy. On the other hand, the project will look into the capability of the Meriva to feed electrical power into the smart grid using bi-directional charging system -- when the vehicle is not in use and when the driver allows it.
This two-way charging technology demo will try to explore whether distributed energy storage in car batteries for home usage is practical and viable. As for the EV, the Meriva is powered by an electric motor that develops 60kW (82hp) of output and 215 Nm of torque.
This electric motor gets its juice from a 16-kWh battery, allowing the Meriva EV to travel up to 64 km on a single charge and achieve a top speed of 130 km/h. Interestingly, the electric drive was well-integrated and no compromise was made with regards to luggage capacity or passenger comfort.
According to Opel Vice President of Engineering Rita Forst, the demo EVs will be used to research the practicality and user-friendliness, as well as acceptance of EVs among consumers.
She noted that the demonstration represents an important contribution to the definition of European standards in terms of energy infrastructure and electricity saving technology, as well as data communications. She noted that while the Meriva EV may appear like the production car, it is a pure research vehicle.
She said Opel is testing charging at high currents in under one hour. Moreover, the carmaker is testing the communication protocols between the Meriva and charging station. The MeRegioMobil is an inter-disciplinary consortium comprised of: EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG (leading), SAP AG, Adam Opel GmbH, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), Robert Bosch GmbH, Daimler AG, Stadtwerke Karlsruhe GmbH, and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).
The first Meriva demo EV will be used by KIT, with the remaining two to be employed by Stadtwerke Karlsruhe and EnBW. KIT and the Fraunhofer ISI have constructed a 60-sqm “Smart Home” located on the south campus of Karlsruhe University.
This Smart Home has appliances typically found in a home like oven, refrigerator, washing machine and dishwasher – all powered by a photovoltaic cell, a micro combined heat and power plant. The Meriva EV will be used as a storage unit for this domestic energy grid, as connected by a charging station.