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Participants sought for electric vehicle data collection

September 10, 2020

By Paul Menser

Although it might not be widely known, Idaho National Laboratory has conducted electric vehicle research for the U.S. Department of Energy since the early 1980s and plays a leading role in the national laboratory complex today, especially when it comes to data analysis. Over the last decade, INL has partnered with numerous automakers and private companies to understand how consumers are using electric vehicles and charging stations.

Energetics, a technology consulting firm, has asked INL and other labs to analyze data from its latest project. The Electric Vehicle Widescale Analysis for Tomorrow’s Transportation Solutions (EV WATTS) project will collect real-world use data from electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles around the country. Starting in January 2021, the company will share this data with INL, Argonne National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory so they can analyze it for ongoing electric vehicle research.

Right now, the company is calling for volunteers who want to participate in the EV WATTS program. Owners of an EV or a plug-in hybrid can volunteer their vehicle(s) for the project. Energetics will install Geotab telematic hardware that logs the vehicle’s driving and charging behavior. The program will cover the cost of the hardware, installation and subscription service for up to 18 months.

There is no financial incentive to take part in the study, but the subscription service allows participants to access their driving and charging data through the MyGeotab dashboard. This provides instantaneous reporting on fuel economy, mileage, maintenance issues, faults and vehicle activity. The dashboard also allows users to compare their own data with other vehicles in the program. All information collected by EV WATTS will be kept anonymous.

Nationwide, Energetics is asking for 1,600 EV/Plug-in hybrid owners to take part. Considering that there are more than 1 million such vehicle owners in the United States, one might think it no problem. But the profile of the everyday EV user is changing, said John Smart, lead researcher for INL Mobility Systems and Analytics. First, there are growing concerns across society about data gathering and privacy, he said. Secondly, the first adopters – folks much more likely to have a keen interest in every aspect of their vehicles – are giving way to people who just want to get in and drive.

With the rapid increase in vehicle electrification, there is a need for up-to-date, publicly available national data to understand end user charging and driving patterns, as well as vehicle and infrastructure factors that may affect planning. Under its $4 million contract with DOE, Energetics will work with Clean Cities coalitions, fleets, state and local governments, vehicle manufacturers, utilities, and charging station providers. The data will come from:

  • All-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
  • All vehicle applications (cars, buses, etc.)
  • Multiple geographic areas and climates
  • AC Level 2 and DC fast charging infrastructure
  • Various electric vehicle supply equipment sites (corridors, workplace, multiunit dwellings, curbside, fleets, transit, ports, airports, etc.)

In the last study of this kind, conducted by INL between 2011 and 2013, there were far fewer EVs on the highways. The cars in the study – Nissan LEAFs and Chevrolet Volts – had limited range and performance.

Since then, almost all automakers have brought an electric vehicle to market. “Tesla is clearly dominant, but there’s more variety than ever before,” Smart said. “Americans love to have options, and they love bigger vehicles.”

In addition to the wider variety, many more charging stations exist than there were eight years ago. “Now it’s feasible to drive an electric vehicle from coast to coast,” he said.

Smart said having an outside organization collecting the data frees INL and other national laboratories to do more nuanced and in-depth analysis. “The industry can take the data and form the models that allow them to simulate EVs in the future, when there are more of them,” he said. “We need to know how many charging stations are going to be needed. And the electrical utilities need to know what sort of effect many more vehicles are going to have on the grid.”

How to register

If you own or lease an all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and would be interested in having a Geotab telematics device installed for providing data to the EV WATTS program, please answer the questions in the survey associated with the area of your residence.

Eastern Idaho:

Blaine County:

Boise Area:


About Idaho National Laboratory

Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, celebrating 75 years of scientific innovations in 2024. The laboratory performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. 

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Posted September 10, 2020

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