TODAY’S STUDY: The Need To Get A Handle On EV Charging
A Comprehensive Guide to Electric Vehicle Managed Charging
Erika H, Myers, May 2019 (Smart Electric Power Alliance)
With estimates of more than 20 million electric vehicles (EVs) expected on the road in the U.S. by 2030, EVs represent the most significant new electric load since the rise of air conditioning in the 1950s. In an era of flat and declining electric usage, this is welcome news to electric utilities.
But unlike the 1950s, when the cost of new generation was falling, the electric grid was a simpler construct, and environmental concerns from carbon emissions were negligible, today’s utility response to a dynamic new load is far more nuanced than a matter of matching supply to demand. EVs are considered one of the customer-driven and owned distributed energy resources (DERs) that are changing the nature of the utility business. While EVs are welcome as a new and perhaps historically significant end-use of electricity, they also present the potential for disruption.
California is the nation’s largest early market for EVs. It is also the nation’s largest market for solar power and as a result is the home of the “duck curve”, the load shape that skews grid demand to an abrupt early evening peak after the sun sets. If customers in California plug in their EVs just as that peak is spiking, the demand will likely intensify the negative impacts on the grid. It is an example of the unwelcome side effects that can impact utilities everywhere as the EV market grows.
One plausible antidote is the managed charging of EVs. It is in many ways a technology, customer, and business model challenge, which is the core focus of this report. But it is also a challenge and an opportunity for electric utilities to take a leadership position. Utilities can lead the development of innovative approaches that effectively integrates EVs into the grid, help further accelerate their adoption, and help to advance a 21st century clean, smart, and affordable energy system. This must be done in concert with the expectations and acceptance of regulators, automotive companies, EV charging infrastructure manufacturers, information and communication technology providers—and of course, of utility customers.
THE VALUE OF MANAGED CHARGING
Managed charging can—and many would suggest, must— become a key part of a demand response portfolio. If the timing and intensity of charging vehicles can be effectively managed, the result will be a suite of benefits that touch every part of the electricity marketplace. EV owners will see savings ranging from lower cost of electricity to payments for the supply of ancillary services to the grid. Wholesale markets and transmission and distribution grid operators will have another tool to meet demand and improve efficiency. A significant amount of off-peak capacity will absorb excess renewable energy production, thereby reducing overall emissions. A more efficient and costeffective energy system will bring monetary benefits to all utility customers.
OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO MANAGED CHARGING
There is a long list of reasons why the smart management of EV charging makes sense. But turning the concepts of managed charging into mainstream practice depends upon advances on several fronts, such as developing an understanding of the value and market mechanisms, technology, standards and protocols, and established use cases. As with other elements of demand response and grid modernization, making improvements in network communication and equipment interoperability is key to the success of managed charging.
Some managed charging is currently, and will continue to be, achieved through a passive approach, generally relying upon customer behavior as a means of changing charging patterns. Customer behavior is generally influenced by time-of-use rates or other incentives for the vehicle owner to use an on-board vehicle computer or electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) timer to set charging at times that align with utility grid management goals. In active managed charging, the utility (or a market aggregator working with charging networks) can determine and/or control charging time, scale, and location in order to achieve a variety of outcomes, such as managing peaks, absorbing excess renewable generation or supplying some ancillary services to a structured market.
Active managed charging in particular relies upon a reliable two-way flow of information through a variety of communications technologies (such as Wi-Fi, cellular and telematics) from the vehicle and EVSE to the utility or aggregator. While there are protocols for the transport of the information, as well as protocols for the messaging (the instructions for the required actions), there are no industry-wide standards for the entire “ecosystem” of information exchange and communication, which is an obstacle the industry is currently working to solve. For managed charging to work at scale, different devices, whether in the vehicle or within the charging infrastructure, must be able to communicate freely, without disruption from closed or proprietary protocols. In addition, to achieve widespread adoption and align with consumer preferences, managed charging programs will need to 4 Using Level 1 to Level 2 charging stations; DCFC load would be higher. 5 Electric Drive Transportation Association, April 2019, https://electricdrive.org/index.php?ht=d/sp/i/20952/pid/20952 6 Assumes 3,858 kWh per EV per year based on data from the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center. Assumes all vehicles sold since 2010 are still operating in the U.S. understand and support various consumer preferences for specific charging solutions while providing utilities an efficient means of interacting with a variety of devices and associated networks.
An essential part of current managed charging pilot projects involves testing network communication interfaces to ensure that the information is delivered across a range of devices and expected results are achieved.
In general, the broad deployment of managed charging will depend upon establishing the reliability of hardware, software and communication systems, finding ways to generate benefits and lower costs, and delivering results that yield a sufficient economic return on the investment.
THE ROLE FOR UTILITIES IN ADVANCING GRID-FRIENDLY EV ADOPTION
Electric utilities have a significant role to play in improving the integration of EVs with the grid. First, utilities are supporting EV charging infrastructure deployment through direct procurement, providing rebates or other incentives to encourage customer and third-party investments, and by requiring open protocols as a component of a utilitymanaged program. Second, utilities are contributing to the development of the standards for managed charging equipment, and they are supporting the evolution of software and other methods used to modulate charging rates or shift charging events in order to provide grid services.
With a growing charging load that can be flexible and intelligent, EVs are part of the larger discussion around the evolution of the grid and the future of the electric utility industry. Most industry analysts treat EVs as a way to increase load in an era of flat or declining electricity sales. However, managed EV charging can also be a useful means to better align and balance a power supply that is increasingly diverse, decentralized, renewable and intermittent with flexible demand. By integrating more renewables and avoiding dispatch of peaker plants, managed charging can reduce emissions in the transportation and utility sectors and improve grid economics.
SEPA’s A Comprehensive Guide to Electric Vehicle Managed Charging has six sections to help readers understand what managed charging is and how it could be beneficial, provides an overview of the current managed charging industry, outlines what utilities want from managed charging programs, defines how managed charging communication pathways can relay signals, and defines the current managed charging vendor landscape…