5 Things Utilities Should Tell Customers About EVs
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- March 8, 2019
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As the electric power landscape evolves, utilities must consider how to address certain challenges – such as labor shortages, cybersecurity concerns, and increasing weather-related threats – and how to position themselves as a provider in relation to developments such as distributed energy resources (DERs), time of use (TOU) pricing, and electric vehicles (EVs).
Power companies that want to promote EV usage must develop an overarching program to support customers in the decision to purchase, operate, and maintain an EV. Such a program should include strong communication with customers to ensure they understand the scope of support. Communication is key because, as noted by the American Public Power Association, “EVs provide a unique opportunity for utilities to create grid benefits through smart charging, and as the new fuel provider, utilities are vital to the successful deployment of a comprehensive charging network to support anticipated EV growth.”
Some utilities, such as Sacramento Municipal Utility District, are already far along on this initiative. Below are a few suggestions for items to include in customer communications about EVs.
- Owning an EV can save money. McKinsey & Company notes, “Cost remains a significant problem: more than 60 percent of those surveyed say they would not pay a premium for an EV.” You can describe rebates, discounts, tax breaks, and other incentives available to customers, including those offered by the utility itself. Like Portland General Electric, you can break down fuel costs compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
- EVs can go hundreds of miles on a charge. Given the widespread phenomenon of “range anxiety,” you can reassure customers that many EVs offer ranges up to 300 miles per charge. The average person drives less than 40 miles per day, according to Alliant Energy, so sharing this information should alleviate at least some of that anxiety.
- More charging stations are being built all the time. Whether it’s your own charging station network, or a collection of stations otherwise available in your area, clearly describe how customers can charge their EVs not only at home, but also when they’re out and about. If applicable, provide a map so customers can know exactly where stations are located in relation to their home, work, and other frequently visited destinations.
- Your EV plan. First, states the American Public Power Association, “Convey the message that you understand electricity as a transportation fuel, as an environmentally sound, cost effective way to power vehicles.” To strengthen this message, develop incentives for employees to buy and use their own EVs, including charging stations at the workplace. The more employees understand EV ownership, the better they can respond to customers’ questions and concerns. Finally, clearly explain your EV-specific pricing options.
- You’re ready to help. Make it clear that, no matter where customers are on the path to EV ownership (exploring, purchasing, owning), you’re ready to assist them. Web-based information like purchasing guides, FAQs, and links to additional resources can go a long way toward showing your support. Testimonials from other EV owners can help customers understand how real people are already enjoying the benefits of EV ownership. Provide contact information for EV-specific customer service support.
No matter what kind of program your utility decides to implement around EVs, clear communication similar to that you offer with other programs will create a cooperative relationship between you and your customers.
How does your utility support EV ownership? Please share in the comments.