ABC7 takes deep dive into future of EVs, Chicago-area charging networks and autonomous driving

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Monday, February 12, 2024
ABC7 dives into future of EVs, charging networks, autonomous driving
ABC7 took a look at electric vehicles, local EV charging networks and autonomous driving with the help of scientists at Argonne National Laboratory.

LEMONT, Ill. (WLS) -- As the Chicago Auto Show kicked off this weekend with more electric vehicles available to drive than ever before, ABC7 took a deep dive into the future of EVs, Chicago-area charging networks and autonomous driving with scientists testing cutting-edge technology.

It's groundbreaking research into the future of EVs happening right in our backyard. Scientists from Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont have been working on visionary technology for the next generation of electric cars.

This isn't your typical gas station. What once housed tanks with fossil fuels at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont is totally transformed.

"We're trying to envision a kernel of the future and show that there is promise in a decarbonized transportation system in the future," said grid integration technology scientist Dan Dobrzynski.

Dobrzynski works in this retrofitted gas station lab on the Argonne campus, testing charging technology and electric car batteries in an array of real-world scenarios: extreme cold and heat, new fast charging methods and new systems to charge off-the-electric-grid.

"This 40-killowater on the West Side actually is coupled to the same circuits that power these charging stations, so this is actual solar renewable energy going right into the battery," Dobrzynski said.

This could be the electric gas station of the future. Two canopies full of solar cells that are powering cars right now, a massive battery that's also offsetting the strain on the grid for charging.

"We have to understand the whole supply chain from where, you know, the battery materials come from, all the way to the utility side of things and how utility planning takes place and how to coordinate that and where which communities need energy now and need that charging capacity now," Dobrzynski said.

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That's where colleague Joshua Auld comes in.

"This is Chicago running through a day where everyone's driving, how much energy they're using, and we like to map that to see how anything we deploy on top of this, whether it's electrification or whether It's many of the other new and interesting automotive and mobility technologies that are coming out, how that influences the city," said Auld, a transportation systems and mobility scientist.

Auld and his team model real-world use of EVs and more, learning where demand and battery strain become highest and working with regional planning agencies on where to add new electric charging.

"We partner with a number of organizations in Chicago that are helping along with that charger deployment and equitable deployment is another important factor," Auld said.

Less than a mile away, more Argonne scientists test artificial intelligence autonomous driving and EVs.

"So we're studying how it interacts with the cars. We're studying, you know, are these automated systems, do they do better at driving efficiently or not? And if they don't, what kind of controls can the computer guys do to make it a little bit better?" said Argonne research engineer Michael Duoba.

Duoba puts the self-driving electric cars of the future through rigorous tests.

"Even if it's just my hand, it knows that's a hand of a human so that's a person," Duoba said.

In a spectrum of conditions in what's called a dynamometer, which is basically a treadmill for cars in extreme heat or cold.

"We go down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, which is also another problem with electric cars, where the battery either you the choice to let the battery be very cold or you heat the battery which consumes energy. So there's a tradeoff between the two extremes. And so we study all the different kinds of cars that they have," Duoba said.

It's all in an effort to maximize EV efficiency.

"Emerging technologies, that's what we care about. How will they impact our energy security and, you know, and carbon emissions and so forth," Duoba said.

The beauty of this is all of the research is shared with cities, planning agencies and car manufacturers, so breakthroughs in Chicago can be made nationwide.