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Top 10 EV Challenges

Utilities prepare for a bumpy road.

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2011

#7—Helpdesk Support: As both consumers and electricity providers transform solutions and processes in support and management of EVs, the impact to the utility’s help desk can’t be ignored. Will EV owners know who to call regarding various aspects of their new vehicles? Which questions should be directed to the carmaker, and which to the utility? What if the consumer forgot to opt-out of a demand response event and subsequently discovered that his EV didn’t fully charge? Such scenarios have the potential to significantly increase call volumes—and the complexity of issues that customer service representatives might be asked to address.

#8—Data Security & Privacy: For EV distribution tracking and proactive electric distribution asset management, utilities will reach out to consumers and EV dealers for information collaboration regarding EV purchases— e.g., purchaser, type, addresses, drive patterns, location and tracking of charging locations and events, etc. This ideal measure of proactive vehicle-to-grid management, while voluntary, will raise concerns about the privacy and security of this data.

#9—Installation Model: When a consumer purchases an EV on Friday and picks it up from the dealer on Monday, he will expect to be able to simply plug it in at home to charge and take advantage of specific EV electricity rate structures. Discovering that a new electrical circuit and even a separate meter might be required won’t provide a positive consumer experience.

One of the most important decisions a plug-in electric vehicle owner will make is how to charge their vehicle. Most plug-in electric vehicles will charge at home on one of two charging levels. Depending on which charging level is selected, the home electrical system might need to be upgraded, which could cost in the neighborhood of $2,000.

At this juncture, a utility’s common practice includes the installation of a second meter and dedicated circuit. While some utilities subsidize this expense for their customers, the installation can still be costly. In addition to installation cost, permits for the electrical work and inspections will be prerequisites. This process must be handled carefully to ensure the new EV-customer relationship begins with satisfactory service.

#10—Messaging and Education: As the number of EVs grows over time, how customers charge their vehicles—at home and using public charging infrastructure—will become a significant factor in determining the impact to the electricity grid. Avoiding spikes in electricity demand as a result of charging patterns will be an important policy objective. Utilities will need to reach out to customers to understand their interest in plug-in electric vehicles, including intent to purchase, to more effectively assess and plan for potential upgrades.

Consumer segmentation is complex and not yet clearly understood by utilities. An entire range of motivations and attitudes exist. Hence, not one messaging strategy fits all. The industry is just beginning to understand the complexity of consumer attitudes relative to the smart grid.

The consumer segment isn’t monolithic, but quite complex in its attitudes. In the end, the largest segment of people tends to be motivated by comfort and convenience. Positions span from diehard green enthusiasts to conditional green supporters; from