Electric vehicles (EVs) may be battery-powered, but that didn’t stop them from fueling discussions at DistribuTECH 2022. At the center of this discussion is one question: Is the electric grid ready for EVs and the accompanying 27% increase in global electricity demand by 2050 

Electric demand will increase – but not predictably. Expect residential charging demand to follow a traditional workday with customers plugging in between 5 and 7 p.m. when they get home. But that’s not all. Utilities must account for workplaces where customers may arrive and charge in the morning. Mixed-use areas like shopping centers may offer charging stations that are used sporadically throughout the day. Fleet charging is another distribution case, where airport shuttles, busses and delivery vehicles charge. This sketched infographic from a session at DistribuTECH on EVs summarizes some of the use cases and unique challenges they pose: 

Incorporating EV Charging Stations into Utilities’ Distribution and Integrated Resource Planning

Prepare for the unpredictable now by ensuring that you have the AMI communications network and grid edge assets needed to manage distributed energy resources (DER) like EV chargers. Together, the right network and smart assets can enable your Distribution Automation system to deliver a resilient and flexible grid capable of handling these changes in power supply and demand. 

Understanding load on each transformer is critical. The EV future includes residential charging and charging centers around highway exits, hotels and workplaces. Imagine gas stations but with EV chargers. Now imagine that a neighborhood with high EV adoption and a charging center are on the same transformer. What is the typical house load? How will you know and how will you respond? 

One solution is demand response – which empowers utilities to shift high-energy items to off-peak hours thereby controlling peak demand.   

Managing EV load must be done in partnership with your customers. And now is the time to understand what incentives and programs they will respond to.  

Time of use rates, for example, help incentivize drivers to charge their vehicles during off-peak periods. In many cases, an EV driver can set their system up to start and stop charging at certain times automatically, without having to physically plug or unplug the vehicle.  

However, utilities at DistribuTECH underscored the importance of making these programs simple and mutually beneficial. One presenter launched a pilot program wherein customers could opt-in to receive alerts at times of peak load wherein they can automatically choose to stop charging (or not). Simple applications – and simple incentives like rebates – were preferred to more complex solutions. 

While there’s not a map to get to the EV future, there are many things to begin now that will help you prepare and capitalize on this massive shift in energy consumption.