How Can Utilities Be a Part of the Electric Vehicle Revolution? EPRI Can Help Answer This Question

Posted to EPRI in the Utility Management Group
image credit: EPRI
Daniel Bowermaster's picture
Senior Program Manager, Electric Transportation, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Dan Bowermaster is the Senior Program Manager for Electric Transportation at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an independent non-profit center for public interest energy and...

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  • Sep 1, 2020

Around the world, utilities are considering how to broaden their role in electric transportation. A utility that plans effectively for an influx of electric vehicles (EV) could yield enormous benefits for the grid, utility customers, and society. For example, by supporting a reliable EV charging network, providing convenient charging locations, and managing the load effectively, utilities can optimize use of grid assets, lower electricity costs for customers, and promote cleaner air for society. They can also potentially discover new opportunities to meet the needs of business and residential consumers.

EPRI has launched a new project to help utilities plan, design, and implement strategic, customer-focused EV infrastructure programs. The project, called Electric Transportation Infrastructure Program Support, enables utilities to effectively support their residential, commercial, and industrial customers in adopting, operating, and charging EVs. Successful utility programs can help regions meet ambitious electrification goals and decarbonization targets while expanding a new pool of grid-friendly energy resources.

“Utilities are increasingly seeking expertise to help them design programs to deploy EV charging infrastructure,” said Dan Bowermaster, who manages EPRI’s Electric Transportation research program. “We have launched this project because our utility members have asked us for help in this area. Why should a utility engage with EPRI? We have long-running relationships with utilities and other power industry stakeholders across the United States. These relationships are built on more than two decades of EPRI research results spanning the full spectrum of EV issues. Through our industry network, EPRI can aggregate lessons and best practices to inform the best designs for new utility EV programs. This new project broadens the value that we can provide the industry above and beyond our collaborative research, development, and demonstration of new and emerging technologies.”

EPRI technical experts can assist utilities at four stages:

  • Roadmapping: It’s essential to consider the unique characteristics of the local EV market when designing an EV infrastructure program. In this stage, EPRI will delve into these characteristics. What are the best EV market opportunities in a particular utility service area? Light-duty, medium-duty short-haul, heavy-duty short-haul, or transit fleet vehicles? Or some combination of those market segments? Examining various data sources, the EPRI team will quantify the current EV market and project future EV volumes, charging load, and environmental benefits such as emissions reductions and reduced petroleum use. EPRI also will evaluate key drivers of and barriers to expanded EV use (such as governmental policies and incentives), costs and benefits associated with each EV market segment, and a utility’s existing resources and capabilities that can be tapped to participate in the market.


  • Assessing a utility’s strategic EV market role and associated program design: In this stage, EPRI will examine the pros and cons of the potential paths a utility could pursue in supporting the local or regional EV market. Questions that will be investigated include: Should the utility fully fund the deployment of all the necessary infrastructure, including the charging equipment and the grid upgrades? Or should the utility share the costs with other stakeholders? Should the utility own and operate the charging stations or partner with charging providers? What potential financial incentives, outreach, education, and other actions are needed to support EV adoption by utility customers? What are the guiding principles and best practices for the various paths? What additional capabilities and resources will the utility need?


  • Developing the program: Drawing on the findings from the first two phases, EPRI will develop the specific elements and services that comprise the program, including infrastructure deployment and operation, customer education, and other interactions with customers. The EPRI team will work with the utility to help identify potential suppliers and vendors, such as charging equipment manufacturers, meter manufacturers, and construction companies. (The utility is responsible for selecting these stakeholders.) The EPRI team also will help the utility identify nongovernmental organizations and other partners that can offer helpful perspectives regarding the program.


  • Implementing the program: In this phase, EPRI can help the utility implement the various program elements. This includes determining how to track program performance, streamline processes, inform stakeholders on results, and refine the program accordingly.

Utilities of all sizes and at all stages of EV program planning can benefit from EPRI’s help. Programs can be developed for investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities, and utility cooperatives.

“If utilities implement successful electric transportation programs, it benefits everyone,” said EPRI’s Bowermaster. “It's good for the utility and society because widespread EV adoption can promote a cleaner transportation sector, enable more efficient use of grid assets, and enhance grid operations. And it's a win for the customer, who gets a better car, cheaper fuel, and cleaner air.”

Founded in 1972, EPRI is the world's preeminent independent, non-profit energy research and development organization, with offices around the world.
Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 1, 2020

Roadmapping: It’s essential to consider the unique characteristics of the local EV market when designing an EV infrastructure program.

Is there a direction to be taken that's not just looking at the characteristics of the local EV market, but also to carve out what that local market can/should be? I'd hate to see any markets get stuck in a chicken/egg scenario that doesn't look at how to break through that and make the EV market into what it wants it to be!

Peter Key's picture
Peter Key on Sep 4, 2020

This says that, as part of the "roadmapping" process, EPRI "will quantify the current EV market and project future EV volumes" and "evaluate key drivers of and barriers to expanded EV use." That sounds to me like EPRI won't just look at what the EV market in a utility's territory is now, but what it's likely to be. Also identifying barriers to expanded EV use will be helpful for utilties that want to grow EV use in their territories because it will let them know of some the obstacles they need to overcome to do that.

I don't know how many utilities will take EPRI up on this, but if enough do, it could enable EPRI to put together a national model of EV adoption. I'd be interested in seeing how that would compare with other forecasts of EV growth.


Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Sep 2, 2020

The power companies really need to make all exisitng public charging be more efficient. They all need on site Battery Storage and it should be a mandate. In the Southern states they all should have shade or be placed in a parking garage for shade and in winter to keep snow from making them isolated.

Then the Power Companies should insist they have On Peak and Off Peak charging costs to match when it is best to charge. This will make plugin vehicles all work with the GRID and not against it. 

   The non profits can help educate. Like the Electric Auto Association 501C3 Non Profit , that I am a part of. We educate drivers on charging at home and in the public. We let them know how to get the best range and make sure that never run low on a change. We also explain which vehicles are best and what pnes have weak designs. 

   We all need to work together. Plugin vehicles are the biggest growth area for Power Companies. We need to all understand what can help and what is bad with these vehicles. We need trials of V1G and V2G in each area. Education is key. 

Daniel Bowermaster's picture
Thank Daniel for the Post!
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