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Accelerating Electric Vehicle Infrastructure - A How-to Guide for Regulators

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Larissa Koehler's picture
Senior Attorney, Energy Transition EDF

As a Senior Attorney in EDF’s Energy Transition program, Larissa engages in zero-emission vehicle policymaking across the U.S. at the state and federal level, including in California, New York,...

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  • Mar 30, 2022
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This item is part of the Investing in the Grid - March 2022 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

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Written By: Larissa Koehler and Pamela MacDougall

Executive Summary

In response to a groundswell of public opinion, state policymakers and utilities throughout the country are embracing electric vehicle (EV) technology as a way to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution. The challenges of doing so are not purely financial or technological. EV technology needs to be proliferated in a way that promotes equitable deployment of resources while maximizing environmental benefits. Therefore, state policymakers and utilities must prioritize the needs of stakeholders in low-income and pollution-burdened areas. They must also pay heed to the needs of all types of vehicles. Rather than focusing on light-duty vehicles (LDVs), medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs) must be contemplated as well.

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Financially, the upfront costs of transportation electrification – while decreasing rapidly – can still be significant, despite savings of the lifetime of the vehicle. But, progress is aided by the falling price of electric vehicles, the economies of scale of per-vehicle costs of charging infrastructure1 , and lifetime cost savings across vehicle segments - all of which can be stimulated by public investment, through use of ratepayer and other investments, in the near term.

From a technological point of view, while EVs represent a significant new load on the grid, that additional load can be managed to a certain extent by, for example, pairing with on-site renewables and stationary batteries. Even better, the batteries of vehicles such as freight trucks can be harnessed to provide grid-level storage benefits at costs that are orders of magnitude lower than conventional batteries.

In order to balance all these factors, there must be an informed, holistic approach in deploying resources – including vehicles, charging stations and distributed energy systems – in order to support EV growth in the most beneficial way.

This paper offers seven approaches that state policymakers and utilities should consider as they explore how best to facilitate the new era of transportation electrification. By adopting these guidelines, states will be able to drive more rapid, widespread, and equitable deployment of infrastructure and EVs. Moreover, these strategies will help ensure that the transition occurs in a way that maximizes climate, health, and economic benefits.

It should be noted that there is a certain amount of emphasis on electrification of trucks and buses, by virtue of the experience and expertise of the authors; as such, while there are many considerations described in this paper that will apply to vehicles of all sizes, some recommendations are specifically geared towards heavier vehicles. To the extent possible, that distinction has been noted in the text that follows.

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Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Mar 30, 2022

The power companies do a very good job of meeting the infrastructure for electric vehicles. It is their biggest growth area while many companies are cutting back due to the pandemic. 

Julian Jackson's picture
Julian Jackson on Mar 31, 2022

I've seen some interesting work on autonomous vehicles as buses and delivery vehicles, for example Saudi Arabia's University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is trialling both an autonomous small bus which drives around the campus delivering staff and students. It also is trialling small delivery EVs, which deliver packages: these are less resource intensive than diesel vans. This would seem to be beneficial in lower electricity use than manned vehicles. Of course there are the safety aspects,  and job losses for drivers. Have you any thoughts on this?

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Apr 4, 2022

This is a complex question. 

I live in Northern California, and most of the EVs here are Tesla. Tesla has their own private Supercharger Network of Chargers. These include fast chargers in many clusters / stations, plus L2 "destination chargers" at many businesses.  Many of the Supercharger Stations have solar canopies and battery energy storage for the best pricing. for more information go through the link below.

https://www.tesla.com/supercharger

There are also many private networks like Electrify America and EV GO. If I were a state regulator, I would work with these firms to identify how to encourage other private firms and municipalities to deploy chargers on their properties. This could include local or state incentives.

I believe Tesla has a link on the above linked site for facility owners considering hosting chargers.

-John

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