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White Paper

Understanding the long‑term impacts of electric vehicle charging

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Jon Summerville's picture
Project Manager Burns & McDonnell

Jon Summerville is a project manager at Burns & McDonnell, specializing in depreciation studies, RFP’s for power supply, economic studies, load forecasts and financial analysis. With more...

  • Member since 2020
  • 4 items added with 2,611 views
  • Feb 5, 2020 5:58 pm GMT

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2020-01 - Predictions & Trends, click here for more

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The number of electric vehicles on U.S. roads will increase rapidly over the next 20 years, requiring utilities accurately forecast the effects charging will have on long-term utility peak demand. New forecasting methods that measure EV coincident peak demand can be used to accommodate this rapid growth.

In the near future, it will be essential for utilities to accurately forecast the effect EV charging will have on long-term utility peak demand. Not since the onset of air conditioning has one single factor figured so prominently in long-term forecasts of utility peak demand. Underestimating this demand would have costly implications for both utilities and their customers.

Once future EV penetration and charging load are better understood, utilities can more accurately estimate and manage the EV coincident peak demand to minimize the impact to utility peak demand. With the right technology and proper management, EV load can even become a strategic asset.

Authored by Jon Summerville, Travis Bouslog, PE& Doug Houseman


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Gary Hilberg's picture
Gary Hilberg on Feb 5, 2020

Jon - I agree with your premise that utilities have to work to forecast what can become a large demand.  As a long term EV driver, charging is something that we are very aware of and willing to change behavior to address.  Remember that EV's have much longer range now - most over 200 miles per charge and the average American drives 25 miles to work, so in many cases - the charge can wait!

With this in mind, utilties must proactively engage with their customers and influence their charging activities.  This can range from (1) incentivizing off peak charging at homes using selective tariffs - all EV's have the ability to set charging to start at specifictimes; (2)  Develop EV to Grid solutions for parking locations at offices for storage solutions; and (3)  providing notifications when the grid is stressed - most EV's have APP's that enable us to stop charging remotely.   Most all EV users have to have some connectivity to third party charging networks so the utilities can encourage/force these networks to provide the grid stress notifications as a condition of service.

Yes - the quick charging stations where EV's are in transit will be a challenge, but even with locations - providing notifications when grids' are stressed will change behavior - maybe even better mandate variable pricing models when developers put in high speed chargers.  

Planning is necessary but it needs to be done in context of the consumer needs, skills and interests.

Jon Summerville's picture
Jon Summerville on Feb 6, 2020

Hi Gary,

I agree, a lot of planning (and pilot studies) are neeeded in the context of consumer needs, skills and interests. I do have two concerns going forward as follows.

1. At a high level -over the long-term utilities will underestimate the effect EVs will have on their peak demand 5-10 years out and their Integrated Resource Plans will be inadequate to meet the higher than anticipated demand.

2. At the comsumer level time of use rates could help with reducing EVs effect on peak demand, but could also cause major strains on certain distribution level resources.

For example, consider a substation that serves roughly 100 homes in a well established wealthey residential area. The substation equipment was initially designed to meet the peak load of all the homes, plus a reserve margin of say 20%-30%. If this wealthy neighborhood has an extremely high EV penetration and TOU rates are structured so that a lot of people set their EV to be charging at midnight when the rate changes on a hot Thursday evening before July 4th we could see transformers popping like the forthcoming fireworks!

Thanks for your feedback!

Gary Hilberg's picture
Gary Hilberg on Feb 8, 2020

Jon - very valid points, my electric car charger has a communications module, not sure that it is used any more, but it was designed to allow the charger to be controlled remotely by the leasing company - EVGO which is not opearting under than name.  This is an area where the distribution company should have the authority to get devices pulling more than a set amount be subject to their control.  Many Level 2 chargers do not pull more than 6-8 KW so they are not significant.  When they upgrade these for faster charging time that could be an issue.

Jon Summerville's picture
Jon Summerville on Feb 11, 2020

That is the next wave, already starting!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 5, 2020

Once future EV penetration and charging load are better understood, utilities can more accurately estimate and manage the EV coincident peak demand to minimize the impact to utility peak demand

Very true, but I also wonder how much the actual penetration of EVs will be dictated by the actions (or lack thereof) that utilities take? Does that factor into the utility planning process?



Jon Summerville's picture
Jon Summerville on Feb 6, 2020

Hi Matt,

Yes! The penetration of EVs will be greatly influenced (higher or lower) by the actions that utilities take and that must also factor into the utility planning/forecasting process. Multi-facted pilot programs are a great way to help gauge this.

Thanks for your feedback!

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