Nebraska public power utility Lincoln Electric System has begun a campaign to recruit electric vehicle drivers in a study that the utility plans to use to better understand the impact electric vehicle charging will have on its system’s demand.
“The study is going to be able to help us ascertain when and where and for how long drivers are charging their cars, as well as give us information about state of charge of the batteries and trip durations,” Marc Shkolnick, LES’ manager of energy services, said. The data collection system will not transmit customers’ GPS information, except for charging station locations.
LES has hired FleetCarma to enroll drivers in the two-year study, which begins in November and will include both all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The Ontario based company will equip participating vehicles with its data collection devices to track drivers’ charging habits and how they affect the grid. Participants will also be able to access their personal charging and trip data, including their carbon footprint and battery power capacity, online for the duration of the study.
LES will pay participating drivers a $25 incentive at both the beginning and end of the study. LES does not currently have a lot of electric vehicles on its system, about 250 to 300. “We don’t currently see an overnight dramatic change, but we are preparing for a plug-in future,” Shkolnick said. Right now, Shkolnick says LES has time to engage in market research before committing investment funds to jumping into a marketing program.
The study has a number of objectives. Chief among them is to determine how much charging is going on during peak hours. From a broader perspective, “we have so many questions we decided it would be better to collect data and do analysis rather than invest in infrastructure or launch a marketing campaign,” Shkolnick said. In the utility’s integrated resource plan, electric vehicles were identified as an area of potential growth and an area “we see as a demand response opportunity.”
Shkolnick admits that the participants in the study are likely to be early adopters and so might not be representative of all the utility’s customers, “but it does give us a baseline.”
LES’ two-year electric vehicle study is being complemented with a survey it is doing with the Electric Power Research Institute that is conducting a random sample of all customers in order to better understand their desire for electric vehicles, as well as the barriers to adoption of EVs. By combining the results from both studies, “we will get a better picture of where we are at,” Shkolnick said. “We don’t want to just be reactive or to assume that we have all the answers.”
Meanwhile, another Nebraska public power utility, Omaha Public Power District is launched a pilot program in June to educate its 374,000 customers about the benefits of electric vehicles, while providing incentives for their potential use.
Throughout the pilot and beyond, OPPD will be tracking and monitoring impacts to its distribution system for use in grid planning and will also develop a plan for managing those impacts.