Gettysburg College Economics Prof. Rimvydas Baltaduonis and colleagues from the University of Colorado Denver were recently awarded a $750,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to explore the potential of using electric vehicles (EVs) as sustainable energy sources to meet the growing demands on the modern power grid infrastructure.
The research grant was part of NSF’s Strengthening American Infrastructure (SAI) program, which supports research that incorporates scientific insights about human behavior and social dynamics to better design, develop, rehabilitate, and maintain strong and effective American infrastructure. Baltaduonis and his research team’s project was one of 10 three-year grants awarded to institutions by the NSF last fall.
“The project aims to generate new knowledge that would facilitate fast and efficient integration of the growing number of EVs into the fast-changing energy economy of the 21st century by making the transition more accessible and beneficial to all,” Baltaduonis said.
EVs can be equipped with a bidirectional charging system that would create extra energy to transfer back to the electric grid when the vehicle is connected to a charging port. This process is similar to the use of solar energy panels on houses, which allow consumers to sell back extra electricity to the utility companies.
This Vehicle-Grid Integration (VGI) system would maximize the advantages of EVs in addressing power outages, reducing energy costs, and creating a strong and sustainable energy system. Baltaduonis’ project will explore the potential benefits of VGI, the costs and challenges associated with its implementation, and how best to share the benefits among people.
“My role in this NSF-funded project will be to design and conduct experiments that study human interaction with various EV systems,” Baltaduonis said. “The capabilities of our Gettysburg Lab for Experimental Economics (GLEE) enable me to provide this unique contribution to the multi-institutional project.”
This project aligns with Gettysburg’s unique approach to learning, building a breadth and depth of knowledge about topics that will have an impact on society and developing enduring skills like teamwork and problem solving through hands-on learning. While the researchers at Colorado will employ graduate students to aid in their endeavors, Baltaduonis, who also serves as GLEE’s co-director, will team up with Gettysburg’s undergraduate students to expand his own research and study, collecting data from experiments, surveys, interviews, and real-world implementation of VGI infrastructure. Specifically, the Gettysburg team will look at ways to incentivize EV owners to return power to the grid in times of emergency need.
“My research assistant, Jasper Givens ’25, is already helping me with the development of the experimental software for the project,” Baltaduonis noted. “As a dual major in mathematical economics and computer science, Jasper has become a valuable contributor utilizing his programming skills and the knowledge of specialized experimental economics software that he started developing from his First-Year Seminar with me, titled ‘An Experimental Avatar: Discovering Economics’ back in 2021.”
The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation.
By Corey Jewart
Photo by Jason Minick