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6 things one utility now knows about electric vehicles

<p>Southern California Edison found that random charge start times for electric vehicles has averted power demand spikes.</p>

Southern California Edison (SCE) released a white paper regarding insights gleaned from its electric vehicle (EV) readiness program. The paper, “Charged Up: Southern California Edison’s Key Learnings about Electric Vehicles, Our Customers and Grid Reliability,” shares information based on customer data and utility operations gathered since SCE began to prepare the distribution system and its customers for widespread electric vehicle adoption in its service territory.

Currently, SCE customers lease or own more than 12,000 plug-in electric vehicles (PEV), which represent about 10 percent of national EV sales. Because California leads the nation in EV adoption, other utilities and stakeholders in the auto industry may find the information from the white paper useful.

“The Southern California region and SCE’s service territory in particular is seeing significant uptick of early plug-in vehicle adoption,” said Ed Kjaer, SCE’s director of transportation electrification. “SCE is partnering with auto makers, dealers and the communities we serve to help educate our customers on ways to seamlessly connect their new EVs to an ever-changing electrical system.”

The six major learnings are:

1. SCE’s approach to managing PEV-grid impact is meeting its customers’ needs: Since 2010, of all the nearly 400 upgrades SCE made to (or identified for) circuits that serve PEV customers, only 1 percent of that work was required due to additional power demands from PEVs. The rest of the work was required under regular infrastructure upgrade and maintenance schedule.

2. Using the “end charge” time programming feature is good for EV customers and their neighbors: It’s better for grid reliability and neighborhood circuits when drivers program their charging to be complete by a specific time. When customers set an “end charge” time for charging to be complete, they randomize the start time of their charging, which prevents a large number of vehicles from coming online at the same time, avoiding power-load spikes that potentially could affect the local distribution system.

3. What SCE customers want to know most about EVs: When 15,000 SCE customers visit SCE’s EV website monthly, about 46 percent make their first stop with the Plug-In Car Rate Assistant Tool, which helps estimate charging costs. Customers also click to find out more about public charging station locations from a link to the U.S. Department of Energy’s map, watch videos on EVs and read background materials on environmental benefits and home electric infrastructure requirements.

4. Initial findings show early adopters of battery-electric vehicle (BEV) technology demonstrate consistent and predictable behavior: A sample of Nissan Leaf owners have indicated that any “range anxiety” had been eliminated after driving their new BEV over time. Most reported their overnight charging at 240 volts was sufficient to support their daily driving patterns.

5. Multi-unit residents may face complex challenges: Despite high interest in EVs from condominium and apartment dwellers, fewer than 5 percent of building owners or condominium associations are even considering installing the necessary charging infrastructure. Multiple rebates and incentives are in the works to improve the situation.

6. SCE and the cities it serves are charged up and ready to go: Virtually all of the 180 cities in SCE’s service territory are committed to helping their residents plug in by streamlining permitting and inspection processes.

Editor's note: To learn more about electric vehicles and the convergence of sustainability and technology, be sure to check out VERGE SF Oct. 14-17.

This article originally appeared on Smart Grid News

Electric vehicle charging image by Michael Sheehan via Flickr

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