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Architecture and Communication of an Electric

Vehicle Virtual Power Plant

Bernhard Jansen, Carl Binding, Olle Sundstrom, and Dieter Gantenbein
IBM Research - Zurich, 8803 Ruschlikon, Switzerland

AbstractThis paper outlines an architectue of an electric may be a considerable load on the distribution grid for
vehicle (EV) based vehicle-to-grid (V2G) integrating virtual long periods. Depending on the strength of the grid, in
power plant (VPP). The overall system architecture, a sketch particular most of the distribution grids, bottlenecks must
of the trip-prediction algorithm, and the associated optimization
problem are provided. The communication requirements for our be considered and handled appropriately.
proposed architecture are derived, with emphasis on its reliabil- The EV-VPP thus needs to mediate between the energy
ity, responsiveness, security, and application-level behaviour. We suppliers (generation) and consumers (loads, in particular EV
propose extensive use of well-known, standardized, communica- charging). Based on usage predictions, the charging behaviour
tion protocols between EVs and the centralized VPP to transmit
status and trip information from EVs to the VPP as well as to
of EVs can be anticipated, optimized, and aligned with fore-
control the charging process. casts of fluctuating energy production.
Traditional VPPs are investigated in [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6].
I. I NTRODUCTION However, the aggregation of EVs differs from the aggregation
of more traditional power resources in terms of
The ongoing depletion of oil reserves and concerns of
Power volume: Depending on the grid characteristics,
climate changes due to fossile fuels used by combustion
EVs may consume from 3 KW upward when charging.
engines have sparked renewed interest in the potential use of
This can be put into relation with the typical wind-turbine
electric vehicles (EVs).
generation power of 1.5 to 3 MW.
If a fleet of EVs can be managed appropriately, a large share
Temporal availability of EVs: The predictability of when
of such vehicles can also become an asset for an electric power
EVs are connected to the electrical grid is a challenge.
grid: electrical load can be shifted in time, and excessive EV
The usage patterns, whilst probably typical for certain
battery energy could be fed back into the electrical grid. This
cases, may be difficult to predict and exhibit large vari-
concept is known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. For
ations. Hence, the accurate prediction when EVs will be
example, in grids with high degrees of fluctuating, renewable
hooked into the grid may be limited.
power sources, such as wind or photovoltaics, the demand
Spatial distribution of EVs: For possible grid congestion
response potential of an EV fleet can be exploited to enhance
planning and management, the temporal availability of
grid stability. When the supply of energy is low, EV battery
EVs as grid resources must be augmented with location
charging may be delayed or stopped. Conversely, when energy
information when EVs are connected to the electrical
is abundant, charging is resumed or takes place at a higher
grid. for possible grid congestion planning and manage-
To manage the integration of a fleet of EVs into the
Our focus here is on the communication requirements to
electrical grid, intelligence is needed to optimize and control
gather data from EVs, the power grid, energy generators, and
the charging of EV batteries. In particular, the following issues
other grid resources as well as to communicate with EVs for
must be addressed by an EV aggregator (in this paper referred
control purposes. In particular, in a geographically distributed
to as Electric Vehicle Virtual Power Plant (EV-VPP)):
environment, this represents a challenge to achieve reliability,
Deliver sufficient energy to vehicles: When EVs are
acceptable response times, and sufficient throughput - all at
connected to the grid, enough energy must reach the reasonable cost.
vehicles to guarantee appropriate levels of charge for the
next trip or for the trips of a pre-determined planning Related Work
period, for example, the next day. The potential economic impact of larger-scale V2G inte-
Minimize the cost of charging: Fluctuating energy re- gration has been analyzed by Kempton et al. in [7]. The
sources may imply variable electricity prices in the future. economics presented there become even more relevant in grids
It will thus be of interest to the consumer and also to with high amounts of wind energy as described in [8], [9],
the EV-VPP to minimize the cost of charging while still taking into considerations the economics of balancing power
achieving the necessary energy levels for the next set of required for highly intermittent energy sources. An evaluation
trips. of the V2G economics for Sweden and Germany can be found
Respect and avoid grid constraints: Considering a large in [10]. Motivation of our work in context of the EDISON
number of EVs localized in a distribution grid, there project is found in [11].
The impact of EV fleets on grids were investigated as early Trip forecasting
as 1983 with a study on the timing of EV recharging and its
Data model
effect on utilities [12]. and storage CRM
Rahman et al. [13] have anticipated the implications of EVs
on power distribution grids. They point to distribution grid
implications of large EV fleets, new load peaks in time slots


End users
of previously weak demand, and the effects of long charging
cycles of batteries; see also [14]. Communication modules
Koyanagi et al. [15] propose time-shifted fast charge at
lunch and night time to avoid peak loads during already
heavily loaded time intervals. A summary energy usage model EV status Grid state Generation data
for EVs is used.
Figure 1. VPP modular architecture.
To have an EV fleet enter the balancing power market,
a large number of such loads has to be aggregated and
managed [16]. Without maintaining per-customer information, obtained in real time from the utilities SCADA1 systems;
the EVs are controlled using technical constraints and per-EV data formatting and protocols for this, however, would
objectives. Price dependability is based on a personal, per-EV exceed the scope of this paper.
value factor, which increases towards the time of departure at It is assumed that the feed into the data storage is set up
which a certain level of energy has to be reached. The EV as a set of independant tasks, based either on periodic
managers optimization scheme is based on simplified mecha- pulling or asynchronous push from the data sources. For
nism design theory, maximizing the per-EV utility value under planning and optimization purposes, trip information and
price dependency constraints, power and grid constraints, as EV status changes are communicated to the VPP.
well as untruthfully reported per-PHEV utility values. Trip forecasting: This module provides the forecasting of
Waraich et al. [18] describe a simulation environment to the anticipated energy requirements for EV usage. As de-
study various EV charging schemes. The authors distinguish scribed in Section III, the VPP has to estimate how much
dumb, dual tariff, and smart charging. Details on potential low- energy has to be fed into an EV while it is connected to
voltage distribution grid impacts are given in [19], whereas in the power grid. The connection location also plays a role
[20] the impact of a fleet of EVs on the Vermont power grid when handling potential grid congestions. This module
is studied. evidently depends on the data storage subsystems.
DiAdamo et al. [17] motivates the use of SIP, also in combi- Trip forecasting must also be linked into the customer
nation with IEC 61850, for reliability, scalability and security relationship subsystem; individual end-users may want
in Smartgrids. As well as for the reuse of infrastructure. to override the automated trip prediction subsystem or
The remainder of the paper is organized as follows: Sec- control its behaviour to some degree.
tion II describes our overall system architecture and the various Optimization: This module computes an optimal EV
subsystems. Section III gives details on our trip-forecasting charging plan, taking into account the estimated energy
approach and how charging schedules for individual EVs production, required energy needs, expected durations
are established. The communication requirements, based on of charging periods and potential grid constraints. The
commonly accepted standards, are discussed in Section V. general approach for the optimization is discussed in
Finally, Section VI concludes this paper with an outlook on Section IV.
potential system deployments. Customer relationship and billing information: This is

II. S YSTEM A RCHITECTURE traditional IT infrastructure to maintain information on

customers, their billing information, as well as the meter-
The EV-VPP acting as the EV aggregator can be seen as a
ing of the EV-specific power consumption and feedbacks
modularly composed piece of software. Each subsystem has into the grid. A user-facing client GUI needs to be
a dedicated purpose and is integrated into an overall working
provided to enable users to manage their data and to let
the VPP operator interact with customer data.
The core modules in the EV-VPP architecture are Communication: To gather data from the various entities
Data storage: The VPP needs to gather considerable (EVs, transport and distribution grid, power generation),
amounts of data to perform its EV-fleet management an appropriate communication infrastructure must be
tasks. In particular, historical trip data is needed to predict deployed. This is discussed in Section V.
future EV usage. In addition, end customer information The sketch of our architecture is shown in Figure 1. Note
may need to be stored, as well as billing information. that the billing responsibilities can be transferred to another
Static grid data can either be replicated within the VPP service entity. Relevant metering information can be trans-
or is fetched on demand from remote sources; the same mitted from the VPP to a billing service; leveraging already
applies for production prediction (e.g., weather forecast
for wind or solar power). Grid status information must be 1 Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition
EVs Grid EV-VPP Generation Weather
existing infrastructure of electrical service providers. service
Trip information
The end-user functionality shall include the typical registra-
tion, de-registration and status retrieval functionality as well EV status Weather
as a possibility to override the automated trip and energy forecasts
Grid status Production
forecasting mechanisms. The user may thus be enabled to schedules

formulate unusual driving behaviour, either by indicating the
destination of his or her trip, the date, the anticipated driving Optimizer
style - which could also be derived from EV status information EV charging schedules Production
over time - or simply by indicating an amount of energy in,
for example, kWh. Regulation up/down
Figure 2 shows the communication flows between the VPP
and its related, distributed entities. As can be seen, EVs
communciate with the VPP to transmit status information on Figure 2. VPP data flow.
trips, state of charge, locations, etc. Grid information is made
available to allow the handling of grid constraints (statically)
as well as real-time power flows to potentially adjust the and thus obtains an estimation of when a vehicle can be
charging plans during plan execution. The power-generation charged and how much energy it must be charged with.
entities provide planned power generation and possibly prices Secondly, the optimizer obtains the power generation forecast,
which can also be adjusted during plan execution. i.e., the amount of power available for EV charging during the
planning period. The optimization problem formulation in the
optimizer depends on the objective of the VPP. Each individual
The optimization of the charging depends on the state- power value is limited by the maximal deliverable power to
of-energy goals for each EV. The end user expects the EV the EVs charging spot in each time slot.
to be sufficiently charged to survive the next trip or the An example of an objective is to minimize the total cost
trips occurring in the next planning period. (The situation of energy delivered to the EVs over all time slots. Another
for a PHEV is different: the internal combustion engine can objective can be to exactly match the total charging power to
overcome empty batteries.) Given the limited charging power the generated power.
typically seen in distribution grids, it may not be possible Independently of the objective, the result of the optimization
to reach full state of energy between trips. In addition, full steps should be a per-vehicle charging plan which is then
charge may lead to costly overcharging during highly priced downloaded to the individual EVs. Note that the above op-
charging periods: only the necessary amount of energy should timization does not include grid constraints: the optimziation
be purchased, and excessive, costly, purchases avoided. (This problem also has to reflect the grids capacity if the objective
assumes varying price levels.) is to mitigate distribution grid bottlenecks.
Hence it is of relevance to obtain a good estimation of the A comparison of a linear and a quadratic optimization prob-
expected trip behaviour in a planning period. This estimation lem formulation is given in [21]. The comparison showed that
is based on historical trip data; for each trip the following data the linear formulation is sufficient for optimizing the charging
has to be recorded: schedules. However, grids constraints were not considered
1) Start-of-trip: A timestamp indicating when a trip starts. in [21]; methods of including these are currently developed.
2) End-of-trip: A timestamp indicating when a trip ends.
3) State-of-energy at start-of-trip: The energy stored in the V. C OMMUNICATION I NFRASTRUCTURE
vehicle at the beginning of a trip.
4) State-of-energy at end-of-trip: The energy remaining at To operate the distributed sensing and actuating infrastruc-
the end of a trip. ture represented by demand response in general and EVs
5) Location at end-of-trip: The physical location reached at in particular, an appropriate communication infrastructure is
the end of the trip, which becomes the starting location required. It must be reliable, provide sufficient bandwidth, and
for the next trip. (Locations are essential for determining response times, support relevant security features, and also be
grid congestion.) economical. Considering the number of entities involved in the
The type of information that needs to be gathered influences overall system - consider thousands of (roaming) EVs in the
the communication infrastructure, and this is reflected in future - the deployment of EVs poses substantial challenges.
Section V. The algorithms using the data gathered for trip The communication infrastructure needs to interface with
forecasting do not influence the communication infrastructure, the power-system infrastructure and power-market stakehold-
and are therefore not the focus of this paper. ers when planning EV fleet operation to gather data on
generation planning, energy pricing, grid constraints, and grid
IV. O PTIMIZER status. At the same time, the system has to respect both the
The optimizer is a core module of our architecture. First, charging preferences of the individual car owners and the
it invokes the trip-forecasting functionality for each vehicle electrical constraints of the distribution network to which each
EV is connected. This can be achieved by exercising soft real- atively affordable. These mobile communication systems
time control of individual EVs connected to the electrical grid. thus are of practical interest for V2G purposes.
The communication infrastructure also has to support the ac- xDSL or cable (land-based internet): When considering
counting of energy consumption and of grid services provided. charging spots in residential homes, sharing an already
It needs to support the roaming of EVs between different available internet connection is an option. The reuse of a
service providers and geographies. The potential usage of V2G residential connection requires the protocols used to work
in balancing power markets imposes strict requirements on behind firewalls, Network Address Translation (NAT),
the communication infrastructure: for example, grid services and with dynamic IPs
for primary and secondary power control as used within the While networking over the internet and therefore the IP
UCTE2 , entail clear communication requirements - mainly protocol seem a given, questions about higher-layer transport
regarding timeliness - if centralized control of distributed or applications protocols are not straightforward to answer.
energy resources (DER) were to be permitted in the future An immediate solution to this would be the use of a
[22], [23]. connection-oriented transport protocol (i.e., TCP), establishing
The communication infrastructure has to provide differ- a connection from the charging spot to the EV-VPP upon hook-
ent communication interfaces for different purposes, most of up and keeping the connection alive until the EV disconnects.
which have already been defined by various organizations. This would allow easy access to data in both directions while
For example, market data interfaces are already provided by the EV is connected to the grid. Reliability and soft real-time
the European Electricity Exchange (EEX) or Nordpool. The behaviour in the case of dropped connection re-establishment
balancing power market and control interface is given by the may be issues. However, we believe that by far the biggest
relevant transmission service organization (TSO). Yet not fully issue would be scalability: considering thousands of EVs or
defined is the communication interface for EV-VPP to EV end- more requires considerable, and mostly idle, resources to keep
to-end communication. the connection sessions alive.
A. Communication Infrastructure Requirements B. Session Initiation Protocol
The minimum power an EV-VPP would need to provide
A closer look at the communication patterns of an EV
for participation, for example, in the German control system
communicating with an EV-VPP via a charging spot reveals
is 5 MW for primary and 10 MW for secondary control.
interesting similarities to well-known instant messaging (IM)
This equates to about 1,700 EVs for primary and about 3,400
and voice-over-IP (VoIP)/telephony application protocols. An
EVs for secondary control, assuming a 3 KW charging and
IM client, for example, registers itself when connecting to
feedback power per EV. In addition, the ENTSO-E Operations
the network, downloads its buddy list (e.g. communication
Handbook [23] also defines maximum activation delays. For
partners) and then occasionally transmits user data. Similarly,
primary control, 50% of the contracted power has to be
a VoIP client registers when connecting to the network and
activated within 15 s, 100% not later than 30 s after the
establishes a session on user request. In addition to voice data,
frequency deviation. Currently, primary control is activated
VoIP transports out-of-band data for additional information,
by frequency measurements local to the generation units
for example DMTF tones.
providing the control power (see [23]). To integrate EVs into
A typical communication pattern for an EV-charging sce-
the primary control system, EVs either need to be equipped
nario would be the following:
with accurate and certified frequency meters for autonomous
activation or be activated from the central EV-VPP control An EV registers with the EV-VPP when hooking up to a

point. The first approach requires costly equipment on a charging spot;

per-EV basis, the second solution only needs one accurate The EV uploads its collected trip data and status (state-

and certified meter. However, current ENTSO-E activation of-energy);

rules do not foresee centralized activation of DERs. Further The EV requests and downloads its charging plan for the

requirements for balancing power market participation are next charging session;
real-time metering for the actual production level of each EV The EV stays reachable for the EV-VPP and vice versa

and the battery charging levels of the EV fleet. to allow updates of the charging plan and to be able to
Starting with the physical and link communication layers, receive control messages for participation in the balancing
the following options are possible: power market. Note that only intermittent communication
takes place;
Power line communications: These are most likely not
The EV disconnects, metering information is uploaded to
powerful and reliable enough to fulfill our technical
the EV-VPP before un-registering from the EV-VPP.
requirements and are expensive to install for a broad user
basis. A standard protocol for VoIP/IM is the Session Initiation
GSM and 3G wireless WAN: Wireless technologies are Protocol (SIP) [24]. We envision the use of SIP for session
readily available and, depending on pricing policies, rel- establishment between the charging spot and the EV-VPP and
for provision of an out-of-band communication channel to
2 Union for the Co-ordination of Transmission of Electricity. activate the time-critical grid services (such as primary or
Charging spot SIP proxy EV-VPP Charging spot SIP proxy EV-VPP

OK TCP 61850 media session

TCP 61850 media session
Figure 3. SIP INVITE sequence diagram to set up a TLS/IEC61850 session
at beginning of a charging session
Figure 5. Sequence diagram to close a charging session. Re-establish a
TLS/IEC61850 session to read out end of charging values and close SIP
Charging spot SIP proxy EV-VPP session

To reestablish a TLS session during the charging session, for
OK example when a new charging schedule has to be transmitted,
ACK the requesting party sends a SIP re-INVITE with the related
SDP message body to the SIP session partner. As in the initial
TCP 61850 media session TLS session setup, the SDP in the re-INVITE describes who
initiates the TLS setup for NAT and firewall traversals. Figure
Figure 4. SIP re-INVITE sequence diagram to re-establish a TLS/IEC61850 4 illustrates the necessary message flows. A re-INVITE mes-
session sage can also be used to communicate an IP address change
of an endpoint during a charging session, which is needed
when using IP addresses with limited life-times assigned by
secondary power control) and the necessary power metering an internet service provider (ISP).
messages. The above method describes a solution to avoid maintaining
The bulk data exchange, including downloading and up- long-term TCP connections to control and update EVs con-
dating charging plans, status information about the battery nected to a charging spot. However, this demands a relatively
and trip data, is to be performed over a separate connection complex and long setup procedure when communication is
established via SIP. The data model used for such a data trans- needed. While this is acceptable for high-volume data transfers
fer is IEC 61850 [25], encapsulated either in Manufacturing or intensive connection use during a session, it is a problem
Message Specification (MMS) [26] or over a web-services for transmission of infrequent, small amounts of data and
protocol [27]. To detect firewalls, the Simple Traversal of near real-time requirements - as is the case for intelligent EV
User Datagram through Network Address Translators (STUN) charging and participation in the balancing power market. For
protocol [28] shall be used. these application-specific purposes, we propose the use of the
For the proposed us of SIP for signalling during EV SIP Protocol INFO message [30] to exchange session-related
charging, a typical message flow on connection of an EV is control information during a SIP session. This message can
shown in Figure 3. (The figure omits SIP REGISTER and be initated by both SIP session parties and transfers control
STUN sequences.) information efficiently. Currently there is no standardized data
On connection of an EV, the charging spot establishes, by format or data encapuslation; an XML encapsulation seems
sending an SIP INVITE, a SIP session with the EV-VPP. This judicious.
session will remain open for the entire charging session. Based To end a charging session, the EV driver requests the
on the NAT detection by STUN prior to the SIP INVITE charging spot to send a re-INVITE message to the EV-VPP to
request, the Session Discovery Protocol (SDP) body defines set up a TLS session as described above. The request to end
which party initiates the setup of a Transport Layer Security the charging session is then securely exchanged over TLS: the
(TLS) session between the charging spot and the EV-VPP [29]. EV-VPP will read the meter, disable the power connection, and
The TLS session is used to securely exchange trip, battery unlock the charging plug. Once all neccessary cleanup tasks
and metering data as well as to lock the charging plug, switch have been done, the EV-VPP will close the TLS session and
on the charging power, and transmit the charging schedule. send a SIP BYE command, see Figure 5.
After the initial data exchange, the EV connected follows
the charging schedule and no further communication may be VI. C ONCLUSION
needed. To free resources, the TLS session is closed; the SIP The EV-VPP architecture presented in this paper uses a
session however remains open. centralized approach to optimize EV charging while respecting
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