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Helping Electric Distribution Companies Plan for Fleet Electrification

Posted to EPRI in the Grid Professionals Group
Jeremiah Deboever's picture
Engineer, EPRI

I specialize in modeling and simulation of electric distribution systems to assess the electrification opportunity to either prioritize infrastructure investments in areas with constrained assets...

  • Member since 2022
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  • Sep 8, 2022
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More than 2.8 million consumers have made the switch to electric vehicles – adding roughly 8.4 TWh of largely moveable load to the U.S. electric grid. Now, companies around the world are similarly transitioning to fully electrified fleets in their operations. While studies have found numerous environmental benefits of EVs – from reducing fossil fuel dependency to cutting carbon emissions, the lowered operating costs and expanded fast-charging stations have made the timeline for fleet electrification more immediate. Major companies like Ikea have already pledged its roughly 10,000 vehicle fleet to be fully electrified by 2030, while FedEx has committed its nearly 87,000 vehicles to be electrified by 2040.

Unlike residential vehicles, fleet electrification presents unique challenges due to the larger number of vehicles charging at a central location, having more concentrated impacts on the grid. Thus, the timeline for distribution companies to experience significant impacts on their system from a single customer making the transition can be much faster than from the large-scale adoption of residential vehicles.

With widespread fleet electrification on the horizon, electric distribution planners need to understand the uncertainty of where this new demand on the grid will emerge, what that demand will look like, and how to proactively prepare for that new load added to the grid. While fleet electrification has its challenges, there are several opportunities for electric distribution companies to consider – from meeting broad electrification and sustainability targets to downward pressure on electricity rates. To address these opportunities, EPRI’s Distribution Operations and Planning and Electric Transportation programs have been developing analytical tools and processes that enable electric utilities to better plan for and build fleet EV charging infrastructure. So far, EPRI has focused on two key elements to inform distribution planning needs: electrification opportunity assessments and locational forecasting.

Electrification Opportunity Assessments

The new load expected on distribution networks will inherently require new infrastructure to accommodate it, which may create opportunity for electric distribution companies to enhance or overhaul their infrastructure. Thus, proactive planning for future fleet electrification will not only identify strategic investments across a utility’s territory, but also help detect underutilized areas and assets to incentivize early electrification adopters. Leveraging available capacity will enable utility planners to better understand customer needs before investing in new infrastructure and help them develop charge management programs where it would provide the most benefits. By proactively planning for fleet electrification, electric distribution companies can be better positioned for the transition and as a result, be able to streamline customer electrification requests to maintain customer satisfaction. To inform this process, EPRI has been collaborating with a dozen U.S. electric distribution companies to assess the electrification opportunity on their systems. Leveraging new analytical capabilities within EPRI’s DRIVETM tool – a software suite designed to help identify distribution system constraints and potential integration solutions – utilities can identify over- and under-utilized assets, charge management opportunity, EV hosting capacity, and potential mitigations.

Locational Forecasting

Locational forecasting gives energy providers a better look at where, when, and how much demand will develop from fleet electrification across a provider’s territory. As part of a board initiative, EPRI developed several tools to support this objective including FleetCalc and FleetForecaster, which approximates customer preferences and fleet characteristics and translates them into power demand and energy requirements (as well as where they will most likely emerge across the grid). This information not only helps energy providers proactively plan for their emerging new loads but can also guide pricing and adoption programs based on the customer’s adoption timing, location, and charging behavior.

Planning for fully electrified fleets continues to be an evolving process, especially as new technologies such as energy storage, photovoltaic systems, advanced controls, and more come into play. However, EPRI’s recent efforts in this sphere mean energy providers won’t have to simply react to this large-scale transition – they can now proactively prepare for it. As the number of electric distribution companies seeing an influx of electrification requests will only grow – the time to start planning is now.

More information about EPRI’s work on fleet electrification can be found at EPRI.com/electrification or by directly reaching out to Jeremiah Deboever (jdeboever@epri.com) or Jamie Dunckley (jdunckley@epri.com).

EPRI
Founded in 1972, EPRI is the world's preeminent independent, non-profit energy research and development organization, with offices around the world.
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 8, 2022

What's the message to utilities that think they still have time before they have to worry about this? I worry about the stubborn laggards that they're going to be caught in a risky spot because they haven't dutifully prepared

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Sep 9, 2022

It's great that EPRI and others have studied this challenge and can tell the Power Producers what to do. If they have the right rates to encourage charging at the best times it won't bee a problem. As we add advanced Battery Storage to the GRID it can smooth out any demand times. Maybe homes with solar or adding solar are also adding Battery Storage.  With the right rates and incentives this can be a great thing for the GRID.

    Tesla has been running a virtual battery off millions of homes with Power Wall Battery storage. They potential for that type of program is really big. When you add buses and semi trucks you really have a lot of stored energy. It should evolve very well. 

Jeremiah Deboever's picture
Thank Jeremiah for the Post!
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