California’s investor-owned utilities are beginning to grapple with the mechanics of bringing 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles onto the road—and the grid—by 2025, after the state Public Utility Commission approved two initial rounds of pilot projects worth US$1.5 billion.
“The pilot projects would cover the gamut of possible ways to boost electric vehicle deployment including rate designs, smart charger buildout, public education efforts, and helping utilities avoid upgrade costs,” Utility Dive reports, citing Jim Lazar, a senior advisor to the state’s Regulatory Assistance Project. The flurry of activity has been driven by “innovation in the transportation sector,” the industry news outlet notes—with 97 makes and models of plug-in hybrid and battery EVs in the market as of the first quarter of 2016, and 181 expected by the last quarter of 2018.
“Utilities are examining rate design as another way to integrate electric vehicles into the grid, and use them as a way to shift load,” notes reporter Herman K. Trabish.
In a detailed report on the state of play in California, Trabish picks up one many of the biggest issues emerging from large-scale EV deployment. On one hand, a single electric car can increase home electricity consumption by 60%, so that “three homes with new EVs could impose the need for utility expenditures on new infrastructure,” he writes.
“But if the utility can control that load, it can avoid those expenditures and keep the system stable. The utility could even use the load to its advantage, adding to ratepayer savings.”
Those savings can become a reality with smart charging, Lazar said, with rates as low as 16¢ per kilowatt-hour as long as access is limited to off-peak periods.
After reviewing the results of several local pilots, Lazar concluded that time-of-use rates offered the best results, “but the ideal scenario is smart charging that is controlled to benefit the grid,” Utility Dive notes. “That control could be by the utility, the vehicle manufacturer, or even an algorithm.”