Creating an environment for electric vehicle (EV) adoption on a mass scale is going to take the effort of many different groups. According to a new report by The GridWise Alliance (GWA), “EVs – Driving Adoption, Capturing Benefits,” it will be the responsibility of lawmakers to create policies and regulations, but those policies will need to enable numerous groups to deploy, own, and operate charging infrastructure and strategy.
Transitioning to a more electrified transportation system would be beneficial to consumers, communities, businesses, and society, according to GWA, but “achieving these benefits requires investment in foundational infrastructure. Utilities, third parties, and policymakers must act collaboratively today to assure that these benefits are realized tomorrow.”
The grid has been undergoing massive changes in the last few decades, largely due to digital and communication technologies, clean energy, microgrids, and energy storage technology.
“These grid modernization technologies both make the grid more complex to manage and create tremendous opportunities by enabling enhanced interplay between utilities and dispersed energy producers and consumers,” according to the report. “These technologies also help optimize electric system management and will enable EV charging that delivers both customer convenience and value and maximizes beneficial grid impacts.”
EV sales began increasing rapidly in 2011, and nearly 200,000 were sold in the United States in 2017 (even with a decrease in gas prices around 2015). According to GWA, “this suggests that not only can electric vehicles offer value to consumers when gasoline is inexpensive, but also that consumers choose EVs for non-cost related reasons.”
The industry still sees numerous challenges to widespread adoption, including low consumer awareness; high EV purchase prices; consumer insecurity about charging availability; lack of cohesive regional infrastructure planning; and unintended grid impacts from EVs. Lawmakers, automakers, utilities, and others are working to eliminate these barriers.
Through its members, the GridWise Alliance offers a diverse perspective on the evolving grid industry. Select members of the alliance include Duke Energy, IBM, Intel, GE, Lockheed Martin, New York Power Authority, and American Electric Power.
GWA published their paper with the understanding that there is an interdependent relationship between consumers, EVs, utilities, automakers, the grid, and charging infrastructure — but with the goal of understanding how these groups can work together to build the electric system.
The report puts the benefits of an EV infrastructure into four categories: grid, economic, energy security, and environmental.
EVs can benefit the grid because people charge their cars during all hours, including using a significant amount of non-peak hour energy. According to GWA, this could, in turn, stabilize the grid.
“A benefit that could result from this charging flexibility is the reduction of renewable energy curtailment that might otherwise occur during periods of high output and low demand,” the researchers explained. “EVs can absorb excess electricity produced from photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation, and storage, including EVs, can more than halve the curtailment of renewable energy.”
Utilities can better structure their consumption profiles to increase the utilization of the distribution system “without affecting the required capacity or adding significant cost.” This could produce a number of positive effects on grid stability.
The economic benefits of EVs are largely in reduced transportation costs. GWA cites the falling costs of batteries, which will lower the upfront purchase cost and therefore the overall transportation costs of an electric vehicle. EVs only have around 20 moving parts, compared with approximately 2,000 for internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which also keeps maintenance costs lower.
More than 40 models of EV were available by the end of 2017. The announcements by companies like Tesla and Chevrolet of $30,000 to $35,000 EVs will bring the overall cost down to a similar price of gas-powered vehicles.
GWA also recommends that EVs will have a positive impact on energy security because it could lower the U.S.’s reliance on petroleum for their energy needs. Transportation currently accounts for three-quarters of U.S. oil use.
“Transitioning from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles provides one of the best opportunities for the U.S. to support goals of energy independence and transportation fuel diversification,” the researchers explained. “It allows the U.S. to take advantage of its abundant natural gas resources, and it removes the price volatility that comes from relying heavily on one global commodity.”
Electric vehicles will also reduce the carbon footprint by reducing toxic emissions. The report explained that transportation in the United States accounts for one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the country and utilizing more electric transportation will create a cleaner power grid.
According to GWA, most EV owners charge their vehicles between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. They suggest an incentive by grid operators to charge in off-peak hours.
Whose Responsibility Is It?
To combat low adoption, the GridWise Alliance recommends changes enacted by a few different parties. Those include mandates, targets, and policies by lawmakers directed at automakers; incentives and rebates; and utility engagement.
“All grid modernization should create or enhance value by increasing the grid’s functionality and maximizing the benefits realized by all the customers the grid is obligated to serve safely, reliably and affordably,” GWA explained. “Broad EV adoption could both improve customer well-being and move us toward a modernized electric grid.”
The GridWise Alliance has come up with eight ideas to help create a process for increasing EV adoption, for policymakers and industry participants to work together.
Those ideas include:
1. Creating policies and regulations for utilities, third-party providers, and other public and private entities to retain their own strategies for maximizing EV benefits.
2. Providing customer value and efficient integration into the energy grid to accelerate transportation electrification that will help create a foundation system of charging infrastructure.
3. Helping utilities, large customers, OEMs, and third-party providers coordinate and improve a charging infrastructure.
4. Helping advance investment in customer access through incentives, grants, and consumer education and rebate programs.
5. Helping assure that utilities and third-party providers own assets and can provide services by ensuring the changes needed are supported by a business model, rate structure, and regulatory reforms.
6. Building state and community planning for transportation, grid modernization, environmental compliance, and the integration of distributed energy resource with the intent of incorporating EV infrastructure.
7. Coordinating stakeholders to integrate and optimize EV loads onto the grid.
8. Providing good customer experience for drivers, charging station owners, and network operators by developing a system that works across all vehicles and equipment types.
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