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Top 10 EV Challenges

Utilities prepare for a bumpy road.

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2011

off-the-grid individualists to traditionalists who want no change at all.

Messaging to consumers must account for this variety, using carefully targeted messages that resonate with each of segment. A single message, whether it’s “save money” or “save the planet,” won’t suffice. Messaging must combine the rational with the emotional. In order to make this happen, much more market research into consumer attitudes is needed. Program design and messaging is every bit as important as technology.

Addressing EV Challenges

There’s little question that EVs represent significant opportunities for utilities, including increased energy sales and accelerated transformation of passive energy consumers to collaborative stakeholders. To fully realize these benefits and create a healthy market for both EVs and associated energy services, the industry must first overcome a substantial set of challenges. Given the breadth of those challenges, solutions will need to come from many industry constituents in a collaborative fashion. These stakeholders will need to embrace a shift in thinking, from grid operations and public policy, to consumer engagement and outreach.

The vision of smart grid technology is currently focused on a ubiquitous network of monitoring and metering assets delivering multiple applications that optimize the delivery and use of energy. To address the challenges of EVs, flexible infrastructure is needed, as mobile loads will dynamically place constraints on various nodes of the electric distribution grid. The ability to proactively monitor where on the grid problems might arise requires a focus on integrated solutions that allow for flexible communications and data delivery.

In the back office, data delivered from the smart grid network must be aggregated and analyzed in a timely fashion to identify and respond to issues before they escalate into service disruptions. This level of integration requires a network that dynamically prioritizes traffic to deliver the right information at the right time. Scalable, secure integration of systems—including advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), distribution management systems, outage management systems and demand response management systems—is necessary to extract maximum benefit from grid-connected assets, and reliably deliver energy to electric vehicles.

The political and regulatory environment will also need a shift in thinking to address several of the top 10 challenges. How electricity used for EVs will be billed and taxed remains an open question in many jurisdictions. Application of federal road taxes, as well as incentives to charge vehicles during off-peak hours, may require separate billing of energy consumed by EVs. Additionally, the mobility of EVs means that consumers might need to buy electricity from energy retailers and distributors that aren’t their household utilities. It remains to be seen whether public charging infrastructure will embrace prepayment of energy consumption, or whether utilities will establish reciprocal agreements to deliver energy to a roaming consumer on demand, and then reconcile to consumer accounts later.

Applying special billing determinants to EVs points to the need for revenue-grade metrology in public charging infrastructure and residential charging stations. While these charging assets won’t support standard ANSI meter sockets, there’s still a need to establish a boundary between the utility and consumer domain. Metrology onboard EV charging stations must be accessible to