‘Smart charging’ needed to help manage electric vehicles’ toll on power grid

Several utilities are testing new programs and technology to encourage drivers to fill up batteries during off-peak hours.

By David Thill 

Article Summary

Midwest utilities’ plans for preventing electric vehicles from overwhelming the power grid are expanding beyond discounted rates for overnight charging. 

Time-of-use rates — still in the pilot phase for most utilities — are a big part of the strategy for keeping too many drivers from plugging in during peak hours.

But with a potential electric vehicle boom on the horizon, more programs and technologies are being tested to help manage the expected load growth.

Known as managed charging or smart charging, the terms broadly refer to any practices and programs to encourage responsible charging behavior. Smartphone apps promise to make it easier for utility customers to choose when they charge, while new charging station technology lets utilities take charge — with customer consent — to manage when vehicles charge.

report released this year by the Illinois Citizens Utility Board showed that between distribution system revenue, energy market savings and capacity market savings, the state could gain total value of $469 million by 2030 under a modest expansion of electric vehicles (about 690,000 on the road) and $2.65 billion with a stronger penetration of electric vehicles (about 2.2 million) — if charging is optimized so it takes place overnight.

The report made several recommendations, including implementing time-of-use electric rates specifically for electric vehicles (rather than entire households); developing apps for customers to operate charging from their smartphones based on price signals and current fuel mix on the system; and developing a managed charging pilot, something power providers throughout the country are trying. 

Read the article originally published in Midwest Energy News

Published on September 9, 2019