A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend an electric vehicles session a conference in California. While a lot of good information was exchanged, there were two things that stuck out in my mind that will impact the way NEMA members need to think about supplying products to the EV market.
The first point was from a utility operator who was participating in an EV pilot program. In terms of the lessons learned, the consumer behavior that surprised them the most was the idea of “topping off.” This is apparently a manifestation of range anxiety, but the EV users they were tracking would seek numerous charges during the course of the day, some of them at literally every stop. For those EV operators, the amount of available charge seemed irrelevant – if the vehicle was parked, they plugged it in.
The other point to note was the fact that the utility companies who were supporting EVs don’t consider vehicle to grid (V2G) a viable option. There were a number of reasons for this which started with the fact that the utility wouldn’t know whether there were any electric vehicles in an area that is in need of power. Added to this is the concern that a utility doesn’t have a way of assessing the level of available charge, and whether or not the owner might need that power to get home. (Imagine a scenario where you strand EV owners in a disaster area because the power from their batteries had been sapped by the utility.) Some members of the panel also expressed concerns about their liability for consuming “charging cycles” on the EV battery. And finally, even with a concentration of vehicle in an area or neighborhood, the utility wouldn’t be able to aggregate enough battery power to make any kind of a difference. That is to say that load is not nearly as granular as the charge in EV batteries.
For now, electric vehicles remain a legislative darling and as such, will continue to be promoted and incentivized to the consumer. In terms of the concept of the vehicle as an electricity source, however, the bottom line is that utilities aren’t planning to support vehicle to grid operations. Instead, they see a vehicle to building (V2B) applications as being much more feasible.