In the not-so-distant future, electric vehicle (EV) charging could be remotely controlled – by utilities or third parties – to manage load on distribution systems handling increasing amounts of renewable energy, while also providing benefits to customers, utilities and the grid.
The pieces of such a scenario are now coming together across the small-but-robust EV ecosystem, according to “Utilities and Electric Vehicles: The case for managed charging,” a new report from the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA).
As noted, the report fills the current gap between utilities’ rising interest in EVs and their questions about how to proactively position themselves as a core part of the ongoing electrification of America’s transportation fleet.
“Electric utilities have never before had to serve EVs’ mobile load or needed to understand the nuances and needs of their customers’ driving patterns and habits,” says Erika Myers, SEPA’s director of research, who authored the report.
“Similarly, the transportation sector has never had to think about utility rates – including demand charges, direct costs for grid infrastructure upgrades, or optimal siting of charging infrastructure based on grid conditions,” she continues. “Data sharing, enhanced visibility and collaboration between these two sectors are going to be absolutely essential.”
Some of the key report takeaways include the following:
- With more than 580,000 plug-in EVs – both hybrid and all electric – on the road in the U.S., EVs are quickly becoming one of the largest flexible loads on the grid in certain parts of the country. They already represent one terawatt hour (TWh) of consumption, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates EV electricity consumption could jump to 551 TWh by 2040.
- Right now, approximately one-third of all manufacturers of EV supply equipment have a managed charger offering. Plus, half of all EV manufacturers have managed charging capabilities, or have already been involved, directly or indirectly, in managed charging pilots. Companies driving growth in the sector range from established industry names, such as ABB, to startups, such as eMotorWerks and its JuiceBox Pro charger.
- As with many other distributed energy resources, utilities will need to find creative ways to better manage this new load. For example, areas with high concentrations of EVs could see expensive upgrades to distribution feeders. In a study commissioned by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, a worst-case scenario estimated 12,000 of the utility’s transformers might need to be replaced due to EV-related overloads, at an average estimated cost of $7,400 per transformer.
“Looking at EVs simply in terms of load growth doesn’t fully capture their potential value as distributed energy resources,” Myers explains.
“With their deep knowledge of customers’ interests and expectations – and the grid – utilities will be key to finding the most cost-effective strategies to optimize managed charging solutions for the benefit of the entire grid,” she concludes.
The SEPA report can be downloaded here.