Active management of EV chargers is essential to the mission of energy utilities


Almost all of the major automakers have announced plans to shift production to add many new models of all-electric vehicles (EVs) and fleets over the next 10 to 15 years. According to BloombergNEF, more than two-thirds of all passenger vehicles sold globally will be electric by 2040. This means that compared to the 3 million electric vehicles sold in 2020, we can expect to see 66 million new vehicles. electrics sold in 2040.

Now the question is, how do you get there in such a short time?

A recent AP article by Tom Krisher and David McHugh did a great job highlighting one of the biggest challenges facing electric vehicles: winning over the masses. Customers are still hesitant about price and convenience (e.g. number of charging stations), but encouraging to see lower battery costs, increased vehicle range, more charging stations and faster recharging of batteries – all of this makes electric cars more attractive to the mass market. . These improvements are needed to continue to appeal to buyers who weren’t ready to switch from a gasoline-powered vehicle to an all-electric vehicle.

First and foremost, electric vehicles are good for the environment. Of course, they’re not perfect and people can report all kinds of challenges like battery manufacturing and what happens to old batteries. However, let’s be clear: The adoption of electric vehicles is an important step forward in winning the war on climate change and reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. If you look at the movement to EVs from a financial perspective, electric utilities are one of the many groups that are well positioned to benefit from this transition. The point is, now is the time for electric utilities and the electrical industry as a whole to prepare for a future where an EV is the preferred choice over internal combustion engines for transportation. Utilities that take the time to create an EV strategy and implement it will reap the rewards.

Increasing demand for electricity – the good news and the bad news

The demand for electricity will skyrocket as more and more electric vehicles are put into circulation. While this will provide a welcome increase in revenue for utility companies that have experienced stagnant growth over the past two decades, it will also result in a significant increase in total electrical load that will strain a transmission network and aging distribution.

If energy demand increases rapidly and substantially and proper planning and preparation for this increase is not undertaken, then utility companies risk accelerated degradation or even catastrophic failure of their distribution infrastructure – in particular secondary transformers. The risk of total power failure increases when combined with other events that cause peaks in electricity consumption, including hot days when air conditioning usage is unusually high. And, as many climate experts agree, the number of record-breaking days continues to increase year after year.

Increased visibility and control of EV chargers: a necessity to manage the growth of electrical load

Historically, electric utility companies have accommodated localized load growth by simply adding more transformers or replacing existing transformers with larger capacity units. Going that route won’t necessarily work this time around due to the way EVs tend to be adopted in clustered geographic pockets, resulting in an increase in local demand that far exceeds what the total system sees. In addition to this, unnecessary replacement or upgrading of distribution transformers also reduces any potential for additional revenue from new loads.

In order to preserve revenues and meet growing demand, utilities have the opportunity to work with technology partners to provide solutions that enable “active management” of customer-owned electric vehicle chargers. The right technology partners should be able to use advanced analytics to predict peak usage patterns and use this information as the basis for optimizing electric vehicle charging by deferring charging to periods of lower electricity demand ( locally or system level) or by limiting load sessions to mitigate system or local peak load. In turn, end users should have some ability to define the parameters of engagement with their utilities to ensure that their driving needs are met and their experience with the program is positive.

It is also important to remember that there will be no “One Size Fits All” solution when it comes to charging electric vehicles at home. First, utilities should expect the technology providers they work with to take an open standards-based approach that works across the EV charging ecosystem. Second, network optimization and management objectives will vary from one utility territory to another. As such, analysis and control solutions should be able to adapt to differences in goals between different utilities and adapt to changes in use caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and evolve as people all over the world are starting to go to work and school again.

Once utilities have chosen and implemented their respective technology solutions, utilities will then need to engage their residential customers (and electric vehicle chargers) to be interested in participating in their programs. Effective program design and client education are essential, as getting clients to express their willingness to enroll in programs is almost as important as the control optimization technology itself. t do its job. Client registration strategies should be creative and offer clear financial incentives to participants. Thus, the electric utilities will need to be prepared with a full set of services, or have selected a partner to provide services, including education and marketing, easy device enrollment, help desk support. ‘appeals and financial regulations to ensure those who enroll in the program are paid as promised, so that they can become ambassadors for the program.

Electricity is the future

The electrification of transportation has tremendous benefits and is a change that we as a society must work towards. Sadly, we are already seeing the negative impacts of climate change manifest in many ways around the world, and moving away from gasoline vehicles is just one of the ways we can work towards creating a cleaner environment. and more livable today and for future generations. With all eyes on how to slow the impact of climate change, we can expect to see continued private sector innovation when it comes to green technologies, including electric vehicles. Utilities will be part of this change and, when done right, can reap the benefits of a fully electric future.

By Mike Ting, Senior Product Manager at Itron


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