NREL.GOV — The number of electric vehicles (EVs) on roadways worldwide is increasing. In the United States alone, EV volume grew by an average of 32 percent annually between 2012 and 2016. Globally, EVs are projected to reach 35 million by 2022.

To many, this is good news. But it comes with a significant challenge: developing and deploying low-cost solutions for public EV charging infrastructure. Ideally, many EVs will have flexible charging schedules: plugging in at work in the morning, then plugging in again at home in the evening. This will help spread the charging load throughout the day and avoid “peak events” in the early evening hours. If left unmanaged, however, peak events will only grow, leading to the need for additional investment in grid management and, ultimately, increasing the cost of energy.

Finding solutions to such complex challenges is what the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was designed for, not just in terms of its research mission, but also in how it conducts its operations and manages its physical space. NREL’s Intelligent Campus program promotes the laboratory itself as a research instrument, a “living laboratory” that allows NREL and its partners to study the integration of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

One partner, PowerFlex, has been working with NREL on all of these levels to address the EV charging challenge. With NREL technical assistance and commercialization resources, the startup’s promising technology is on its way to help prevent energy-management issues as more EVs hit the road.