SANTA MONICA—The city of Santa Monica has teamed up with UCLA to set-up an experimental Level 3 charger, the fastest vehicle charger currently available in the market. As a part of the experimentation, the charger connects the vehicle to the electric grid and enables the electric vehicle (EV) to function as an energy storage or a battery storage device as well.

These next generation fast chargers were installed in Santa Monica for the first time at the Civic Center Parking Structure by UCLA’s Smart Grid Energy Research Center (SMERC) during the first week of January for public use, free of cost, but with time restrictions.

As a part of the project, UCLA will manage and monitor the flow of energy between the Civic Center Parking Structure’s rooftop 213kW solar system, on-site battery storage and city electric vehicle. When the energy productivity drops, UCLA will trigger a discharge from the City’s EV.

During the course of the project, funded by a research grant from the California Energy Commission, the city of Santa Monica has agreed to use its eligible vehicles for testing purposes.

If the experimentation goes as planned, the Level 3 charger should be able to fully charge an electric vehicle (EV) in less than half an hour, compared to a Level 2 charger which takes several hours.

The fully charged EVs can be used as batteries to push electrons onto the grid in the event of short fluctuations in grid electricity caused by scarce solar output on cloudy days.

“The utility grid likes consistency when it comes to power,” said Dr. Rajit Gadh, SMERC Director, in a statement. “When a cloudy day disrupts electricity generation from a solar system, there is inefficiency that strains the grid. Electric vehicles are like mobile batteries that can discharge excess energy back to the building and the grid in times of need.”