Chattanooga will be home to the nation’s largest electric vehicle “living testbed,” thanks to $9.2 million in funding for a project proposed by the city and scientists at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with municipal, private industry and research partners.
Funding will come from a $4.5-million U.S. Department of Transportation grant award—the single-largest of its kind in UTC history—announced this week and another $4.7 million from industry partners, UTC, Chattanooga city government and EPB.
The winning Chattanooga proposal is for a networked system that will enable electric vehicle drivers to more readily locate charging stations. Charging opportunities will be customized for drivers as a result of the system recognizing the charge level of individual electric vehicles, volume and pace of traffic and electric grid power demand to recommend charging stations and types by locations.
The proposal was submitted by Chattanooga’s Smart City program and its development was led by Osama Osman, Chief Scientist and Smart Transportation Thrust Lead for UTC’s Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP) and CUIP Founding Director Mina Sartipi, also Guerry Professor in the UTC Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
“This award is a game changer,” Osman said. “It will transform Chattanooga into a living testbed for all sorts of smart transportation technologies, making the city a leader in EV deployment and EV charging management and set the stage for more transformation yet to come.
“The idea is to connect EV users to customized charging opportunities considering traffic conditions and electric grid status—customized in the sense of the charging station type, such as ‘fast’—and location to be recommended to an EV user based on their current charge, how much time they have, real-time traffic status, and state of the electric grid.”
Chattanooga is the only Tennessee site awarded one of the 10 U.S. DOT grants totaling $45.2 million. All funded projects involve the use of advanced intelligent transportation systems technologies that will improve mobility and safety, provide multimodal transportation options and support underserved communities, according to DOT.
Funding for the Chattanooga project will implement the technology needed to help drivers locate and recommend electrical vehicle charging stations.
Sartipi said the proposal, titled “End-to-End Decision Support System for Integrated Smart Electric Grid and Transportation System Management,” is based on “a three-year plan.”
“In the first year, we will develop the architecture and the ConOps as well as the procurement of the devices,” Sartipi said. “In the second year, we will install and test the equipment. Relevant algorithms will be developed and baselines will be established. During the third year, we will collect data, analyze it and measure the impact.”
The smart city test bed UTC established in 2019 along M.L. King Boulevard is a starting point, Sartipi said. Its use of cameras and sensors has yielded anonymous data for vehicle traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists.
“This grant will not only expand the footprint of the testbed, but it also brings EVs and their charging needs into the picture,” Sartipi said.
“The state of Tennessee plans to have 200,000 EVs on the road by 2028. As we scale, the equity and inclusion must be considered to equalize the accessibility of the charging stations. This proposal will help to understand the challenges and opportunities in all neighborhoods with EV charging and traffic management in a mid-size city.”
CUIP Testbed Manager Austin Harris, UTC Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Vahid Disfani and UTC Professor of Civil Engineering Ignatius Fomunung are key contributors to the project. Collaborators included experts from the Colorado School of Mines and industry partners Ouster, Seoul Robotics, Cubic, Iteris, Applied Information and Temple.
More information: Read the U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration press release.