NEWS Driving research opportunities at RAEL

April 4: for the orig­i­nal arti­cle, click here.


Cal­i­for­nia pol­i­cy­mak­ers made head­lines in 2021  when they announced new emis­sions reg­u­la­tions that will ban the sale of new gas-​​powered vehi­cles by 2035. As the state inches closer to that date, researchers in UC Berkeley’s Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (RAEL) are study­ing how an all-​​electric fleet will inter­act with California’s power grid.

Late last month, the research team received a new tool to help their work: an elec­tric car donated by Viet­namese automaker Vin­Fast, a sub­sidiary of the Vin­group con­glom­er­ate. Energy and Resources Group pro­fes­sor Dan Kam­men, who leads the research team, said he con­nected with the automaker’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives last year while he was in Hanoi, Viet­nam, judg­ing the $3 mil­lion Vin­Fu­ture Prize.

This was com­plete serendip­ity,” he said. “At the end of my trip, the com­pany asked if they could donate one of their first 999 U.S. vehi­cles to our lab.”

Kam­men said the vehi­cle will be used by RAEL—a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary research group that focuses on design­ing, test­ing, and dis­sem­i­nat­ing clean and sus­tain­able energy systems—to study energy stor­age con­straints, how changes in tem­per­a­ture affect bat­tery per­for­mance, and other issues relat­ing to elec­tric cars, as well as the social and equity dimen­sions of EV infra­struc­ture devel­oped to sup­port mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties. The lab also hopes to work along­side the man­u­fac­turer to explore the costs asso­ci­ated with mod­i­fy­ing vehi­cles to send power from their bat­ter­ies back to the elec­tric grid.

Ser­vice, deliv­ery, and rideshare vehi­cles that might be dri­ven for work dur­ing the day could be used at night to shore up our grid and pro­vide dis­trib­uted energy stor­age for profit,” Kam­men said.


The vehi­cle also offers RAEL researchers an oppor­tu­nity to con­duct com­mu­nity out­reach, par­tic­u­larly within low-​​income neigh­bor­hoods where access to elec­tric vehi­cles is low. “Elec­tric vehi­cles are now suf­fi­ciently inex­pen­sive that, if the upfront costs could be amor­tized, they would be cheaper than gas-​​powered vehi­cles,” Kam­men said. “Low-​​income com­mu­ni­ties, how­ever, might not be given the chance to drive a shared elec­tric vehi­cle because that’s not a stan­dard thing to loan out.”

In the future, the car might be sta­tioned at pub­lic charg­ing loca­tions near BART sta­tions or inte­grated into the ongo­ing EcoBlock research project as a shared-​​mobility vehicle.

Learn more about RAEL and the EcoBlock projects at their websites.

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310 Barrows Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-3050
Phone: (510) 642-1640
Fax: (510) 642-1085


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