Quick summary: The rise of EVs has dramatically shifted the power landscape, compelling utilities to re-evaluate their investment strategies and infrastructure planning. Find out how from Travis Jones, whose insights were recently shared with Fast Company.
In 2022, Americans bought fewer cars than in any year since 2011, but electric car sales set a new record. According to Kelley Blue Book, total electric vehicle sales exceeded 800,000 for the first time in 2022—an astonishing 65% increase over 2021—and could top 1 million in 2023.
How EV growth is reshaping the grid
As the penetration of electric vehicles (EV)—not only cars but also medium- and heavy-duty vehicles—continues to accelerate, utility organizations are facing new challenges as well as new opportunities.
To travel 100 miles, the average electric car requires 35 kilowatt-hours—more than a whole day’s worth of electricity consumption for the average U.S. home. The increase in demand that accompanies EV growth is requiring utilities to re-examine their short- and long-term infrastructure investment strategies.
On the other hand, EVs could play a vital role as distributed energy resources thanks to bidirectional charging technology. When EVs are not in use, their batteries can supply power to homes (vehicle-to-home or V2H) to appliances, to other EVs (vehicle-to-load or V2L), or to the grid (vehicle-to-grid or V2G).
While the full economic impact of bidirectional charging has yet to be determined, utilities are optimistic. One of our customers, California’s Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), announced three new vehicle-to-everything (V2X) pilot programs in 2022 to explore how to maximize benefits for both consumers and the grid.
Impact on investment planning
Current models suggest that if customers charge any EVs they want whenever they want, the current grid will not be able to handle the load. Utilities are focusing their efforts on two approaches to addressing this situation: First, on upgrading the current distribution infrastructure to handle the load, and second, influencing how, when, and where customers charge their vehicles.
Successful investment planning requires a clear picture of the current and future demand for EV charging locally, which depends on an array of factors, including:
- Local levels of EV ownership
- Private charging station plans
- Traffic and parking patterns
- Existing infrastructure capability (and availability/accessibility of upgrades)
- Community goals of regional regulators and of the utility (e.g., net-zero emission objectives, supporting infrastructure in underserved neighborhoods)
- Availability of managed-charging technology options for home-supported infrastructure
- All of the above and more to support business EV traffic for medium-and heavy-duty vehicles
To read the entire article, visit Fast Company.
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Travis Jones is the Chief Operating Officer at Logic20/20.