Are energy companies truly ready for a boom in electric vehicle demand?
- Posted on December 6, 2018
- 498 views
As I read through various forecasts for the energy industry in the coming years, a recurring uncertainty that always pops up to throw a question mark on everything is electric vehicle charging. Electric vehicles have seemed like they're primed to take over the market for years, and despite record sales in 2018, they've still represented only about 1% of new passenger vehicle sales. However, more automakers are pushing to get affordable EV models in their showrooms, policymakers are working to make plug-in electric cars accessible through tax credits, and a survey from AAA shows that 20% of Americans plan to go electric for their next vehicle purchase.
All of this is to say: electric vehicles definitely are coming, we just don't know at what speed (if 80% of Americans are not going electric and many drivers go a decade between new cars, turnover will still be modest at best) and when that true inflection point of adoption will take off. That uncertainty is certainly frustrating for EV manufacturers and advocates, but the other group that it presents a large cloud of unpredictably is the energy management professionals.
The effect that electric vehicles will have on the grid and the planning required from utilities will be massive, with no shortage of problems to address. Such considerations (as submitted to the Energy Management Community) include:
- Planning for an influx of new electricity demand when multiple EVs are attempting to charge in the neighborhood, a type of energy demand that hasn't been prevalent previously
- Determining pricing structures for public EV charging stations (how to split the charge between the EV driver using the charge vs. the public ratepayer who has subsidized initial rollouts in order to encourage adoption)
- Ways EVs could be used with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) tech that could let them deliver electricity back to the grid, borrowing them during peak hours before being recharged during off-peak times
- Similar strategies that would create a superhub of EVs that are charged while parked at the office or at home during the day, during hours of peak solar generation but lower demand, to smooth out the production curve of renewable energy sources (namely, solar)
- In advance of the true influx of EV charging demands at customers' homes, many utilities are working to engage their customers to determine what their wants and needs will be as the EV revolution takes over
An electrified transportation sector has been on the precipice for some time now, but signs are pointing to the fact that the true EV takeover may finally be imminent. Utilities are no doubt aware and doing their best to prepare, but with so many unknowns how do they know if they're ready? I certainly don't have the answers to these questions, so I wanted to to turn it to this community. What are your companies and organizations doing to prepare for the changing power industry landscape that electric cars are going to usher in? What speed do these preparations need to take place? Do you anticipate any lesser discussed side effects to the EV boom? Have your customers begun expressing ideas, questions or concerns to you?
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