Electric Vehicles

LES begins collecting data for study on EV driver habits

The Lincoln Electric System, along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has begun collecting data for a study on the habits of drivers of electric vehicles in the Lincoln, Nebraska, area.

FleetCarma, a Canadian company that sells technology services to the electric vehicle industry, is providing the data collection devices and data collection platform for the study and anonymizing the data for customer privacy.

The American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments (DEED) program awarded Nebraska-based public power utility LES a grant of $46,075 to help support the project. LES used the DEED funds to pay half the cost of the base contract with FleetCarma.

“I think this study will be really beneficial to all APPA members,” Scott Benson, manager of resource and transmission planning at LES, said. There have been other studies on EV use, but they have mostly been on the coasts. The study is not only looking at the driving and charging habits of drivers in a medium size city in the middle of the country, the study is in a region that has four seasons and extreme heat in the summer and extreme cold in the winter, Benson said. “That is what drove the partnership with NREL; they saw a deficiency” in the studies to date, he said.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, under contract with LES, will analyze the data as it is gathered over the next two years and provide quarterly deliverables.

LES is also sharing the data with the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Engineering. “The university is very excited to have the data,” Benson said. They are in the process of coming up with uses for the data, which will likely involve discussions with LES, he added.

The study — with 90 customer-owned vehicles representing 15 different all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric models — is collecting data on when and where customers charge their vehicles; when and how far they travel, and how much energy is consumed while traveling and recharging. The data collected will not include location specific information about EVs and their drivers, except for charging station locations. Overall, there are about 300 electric vehicles in LES’ service area.

FleetCarma equipped the participating vehicles with data collection devices. As part of the program, drivers also will be able to access their charging history and trip data, including their carbon dioxide footprint and battery power capacity, for the duration of the study. LES is paying participating drivers a $25 incentive at both the beginning and end of the study.

It took LES about three months to enroll the participants in the program. The utility used the usual marketing routes to reach potential participants, and also made placards to slip under the windshield wipers of electric vehicles to advertise the program.

The idea for the study came up in 2017 when LES was working on the integrated resource plan that it prepares every five years. “We ran sensitivities on what would happen if 25% of our customers were driving EVs in 20 or 25 years,” Benson said. “And there was a huge difference depending on whether we assumed they were charging during on-peak or off-peak hours.”

LES expects it will have more EVs on its system in the future, “but we don’t have any control about how fast or slow the adoption will be, and we want to be prepared,” Benson said.

Separately, LES is conducting a survey with the Electric Power Research Institute to better understand its customers’ appetite for electric vehicles. “The EPRI study dove tails with the EV study,” Benson said. EPRI is surveying customers to find out what would drive them to purchase an electric vehicle and to identify the barriers to EV adoption.

EPRI will use the data it collects to model the growth rate of EV adoption. Benson said LES plans to combine the EPRI data with the FleetCarma data to model the future impact of EVs on its electric grid.

Other Nebraska public power utilities are also taking action related to EVs. In June, the Omaha Public Power District began a pilot program to educate its customers about the benefits of electric vehicles.

In January, Nebraska Public Power District unveiled details of a pilot program under which owners of electric vehicles will receive a $200 incentive if they install a charging station at their home.