How increasing electric car demand impacts utilities

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electric car demand

Demand for electric cars is growing by the day. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that by 2030, there will be 145 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road.

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There are a few key drivers behind the transition to electric-powered transportation. One of these drivers is an uptick in EV infrastructure investments. As demand for electric vehicles continues to grow, utilities across the country are playing a vital role in making these investments and expanding the adoption of EVs.

The popularity of EVs is growing around the world. According to IEA, In 2010, there were only about 17,000 EVs on the road worldwide–however, nine years later, in 2019, that number had increased to 7.2 million. China had the largest EV market in 2019, accounting for 47 percent of global EV stock. Europe came in second with about 13 percent of EV stock, and the US followed closely behind with about 12 percent. The US more than doubled its stock of EVs in two years, from 0.40 million in 2017 to 0.88 million in 2019.

While there's no doubt that demand for EVs is growing, the rate at which this demand grows is hindered by the upfront cost of EVs, charging technology, and availability of public, EV infrastructure.

EVs aren't a new technology - in fact, they've been around since the mid-19th century. Despite this, there are some disadvantages to electric vehicles that are inhibiting widespread adoption.

Upfront cost

Electric vehicles currently available tend to be more expensive than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. There are EV incentives available to help decrease this upfront cost, but even with federal and local tax credits, you'll likely pay more initially to purchase an electric car. Fortunately, despite the upfront costs switching to an electric car can help you save money in the long run due to lower operating costs. Electric cars also have fewer maintenance requirements throughout their lifetime than conventional vehicles.

As time goes on, the prices of electric vehicles are expected to fall. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimates that the average battery cost will drop to $101/kilowatt-hour (kWh) by 2030–the price point at which EVs should be able to retail for the same price (and at the same margin) as gasoline-powered vehicles. Eventually, electric cars may even be less expensive to manufacture than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.

Time to charge

Another obstacle to widespread EV adoption is the amount of time it takes to charge these vehicles. If you pull into a gas station and are running on empty, you can fill up and be on your way in five minutes. With electric cars, it's another story - if you're looking for a full charge, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 10 hours to charge up.

The amount of time it will take to recharge your EV depends not only on the vehicle and its battery but the type of charging station as well. Faster EV chargers, such as DC Fast Chargers or Tesla's Superchargers, can energize a vehicle in 20 to 30 minutes. However, if you're using a Level 2 charging station, it can take four to ten hours to fully charge your EV's battery.

Charging time isn't a concern for many people who own electric cars, as you can simply charge an electric car at home overnight.

Driving range

As you're taking a long road trip, you can drive a traditional car with confidence that you'll be passing gas stations on your journey where you can refuel. Because of the lack of EV infrastructure in many areas, electric car owners are limited in the distance they can travel.

If you live in an area with only a few charging stations, you're going to be limited in the distance you can drive with an electric car. The longest driving range of an EV is just over 300 miles, while some drive less than 100 miles before needing another charge. These limitations make electric cars less of an option if you live in a rural area or if you regularly take extended road trips. As the demand and popularity of EVs grow, charging stations will become a more mainstream offering from local businesses, towns, and other organizations.

To keep up with a growing demand for electric cars, utility companies across the United States have started investing in electric vehicle infrastructure. Here are a few utility companies that are working hard to improve the accessibility of EV chargers for their customers.

Eversource: $45 million investment in EV charging

In August 2018, Eversource of Massachusetts committed to a $45 million EV charging investment. Over the course of five years, Eversource plans to implement over 400 charging stations at businesses in their service area across the state.

With this program, businesses hosting charging stations will own the infrastructure and can choose whether to require payment for charging or offer it for free to drivers. Either way, there are a number of benefits to businesses installing electric car chargers on their property. For example, chargers can incentivize people to visit the business or an employee benefit for business workers who own an electric car.

Southern California Edison: Charge Ready pilot program

Southern California Edison (SCE), one of the largest utility companies in California, started an EV charging pilot program two years ago. Known as the Charge Ready program, SCE partners with municipalities, businesses, and other organizations to increase the availability of EV chargers for personal electric cars. SCE covers the costs of installing the chargers while the host sites own and maintain the charging infrastructure.

In June 2018, SCE proposed an additional $760 million investment to launch the second phase of their program, aimed at installing an additional 48,000 charging ports throughout SCE service territory.

American Electric Power Ohio: $10 million in rebates and incentives

In the spring of 2018, the Public Utilities of Commission in Ohio approved a proposal for a $10 million investment geared towards offering rebates and incentives for installing EV charging stations in American Electric Power Ohio's (AEP's) territory. The allocated funding will support up to 375 charging stations.

The rebate amount one is eligible for depends on a number of factors, including the type of owner (business, government, nonprofit, etc.) and public accessibility to the charging station.

EV charging station infrastructure is an integral part of owning an EV. If you're shopping for ways to power your personal electric car, check out our guide to the best EV charging stations. With many EV charging stations, it's advisable to work with an experienced electrician during the installation process.

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