The rapid growth of the electric vehicle market promises to reward utilities that embrace the technology and make it simple for customers to charge their EVs. Yet, for utilities, it can be difficult to separate the hard work of longer-range integrated resource planning from the current EV industry hype.
In early July, Tesla overtook Toyota as the world’s most valuable car manufacturer. Even though Toyota produces 20 times more vehicles, this summer Tesla’s market capitalization was $207 billion compared to just over $200 billion for Toyota. Since then, Tesla’s market cap has rocketed past $600 billion, and the company is set to join the S&P 500 later this month.
Given the potential size of the EV market, it’s no surprise that traditional auto makers are planning big investments to catch Tesla and the other EV upstarts. The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) forecasts that almost 10 million EV charging ports will be needed by 2030 to accommodate all the electric vehicles on the road, so utilities need to proactively prepare for the increased loads.
For example, Florida Power & Light recently received regulatory approval for a five-year pilot to add FPL-branded “fast-charging stations” along highways in the Sunshine State. But the interest in EV innovation is not limited to larger IOUs. Working with Virtual Peaker, both Vermont Electric Cooperative and Washington Electric Co-op have rolled out successful initiatives to demonstrate how coops can increase customer engagement in their EV programs.
This fall, Virtual Peaker kicked off a new partnership with Fermata Energy to offer bidirectional vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. Prior to this announcement, we’ve been focused on the operational benefits of EVs for our utility clients for years.
In the summer of 2019, we shared recommendations on how utilities can maximize value in the EV market. And earlier that year, SEPA featured Virtual Peaker’s work with Green Mountain Power (GMP) in the national industry alliance’s comprehensive report on how to manage EV charging programs.
The GMP pilot highlighted by SEPA was designed to optimize the grid and to create value through EV charger controls. From the start, GMP and Virtual Peaker faced two significant challenges: how to manage and simplify often complex time-of-use (TOU) rates, and how to demonstrate the individual—and system-wide—benefits of off-peak EV charging. We knew we had a winning program when participating customers, given the choice to pay more to avoid the personal disruption of not charging their EVs during peak hours, opted out at the incredibly low rate of only 1.1 percent.
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