Electric Vehicles

Panelists tackle questions tied to EVs as grid assets

Executives in the electric vehicle space on July 11 addressed a number of issues tied to the possible use of EVs as grid assets during a panel discussion at the Smart Electric Power Alliance’s 2018 Grid Evolution Summit in Washington, D.C.

The panel was tasked with introducing technical considerations of charging infrastructure siting, the levels of charging needed under different scenarios, the need for interoperability standards and how utility personnel can adequately plan for and leverage these new loads.

Panelists were Brett Hauser, CEO of Greenlots, Parina Parikh, clean transportation business development manager at investor-owned San Diego Gas & Electric, Mike Waters, director for utility solutions at ChargePoint, and Cliff Fietzek, director for technology at Electrify America. The panel was moderated by Jen Szaro, senior director of programs at SEPA.

In terms of the EV market, ChargePoint’s Waters said that “one of the questions that comes up a lot is are we at an inflection point? And I do believe we are. I think we’re really close to that S curve taking off when you look at the number of vehicles available, the price point, the technology.”

ChargePoint says it offers charging solutions in every category EV drivers charge, at home, work, around town and on the road and describes itself as “the world’s leading and most open electric vehicle charging network.”

Waters said that ChargePoint is now “looking at what’s right over the horizon and what we see as a great new opportunity is fleetification and by that I mean not just public and private fleets electrifying, but also seeing the transition of even our personal transportation solutions become more like a fleet as you look at autonomous [vehicles] and car sharing and things like that.”

He noted that ChargePoint recently acquired a company called Kisensum. In a June 28 news release announcing the deal, ChargePoint said its fleet energy solution, incorporating Kisensum cloud services, “will be the first fully integrated offering that gives fleet managers a single integration point for energy and charger management, connecting with their existing vehicle telematics and fleet scheduling platforms.”

Waters underscored the importance of connected charging at the SEPA event. “Everything we do is connected. We thought that would be the best way to go in terms of leveraging the value of connected charging and when I say that, it’s about having embedded metering, it’s about having two-way communications, a driver interface” and software to support all of that.

“The driver wants to be able to see stations where they are, access them, pay for them, integrate with their own home energy usage. We see site hosts wanting to manage the charging station, run reports, do remote diagnostics, set pricing, support the driver experience. And we see utilities, of course, wanting to see what the load looks like, how is it changing over time, where is it occurring, and then, of course, implementing load management programs,” the ChargePoint official said.

Multiple networks

Waters noted that there are multiple EV charging networks that currently exist. By his latest count, there were about 10 of these networks. “That’s good. Each of them are developing new features, new solutions, customer service and it’s all evolving very quickly,” he said. But multiple networks also bring added complexity, he said.  

The ChargePoint official addressed interoperability and, more specifically, the ability to use a station with different networks over time. “So if I had a station and I didn’t like my network provider – it didn’t provide the service I expected and I wanted to use a different one – I should be able to do that,” Waters said.

Waters said that there is an interoperability protocol “that most all network providers are now using, including ours, so that’s good, although we need to drive that more towards a standards body and so that’s one of the activities going on right now.”

SDG&E pilot program and a grid integrated rate

Meanwhile, SDG&E’s Parikh provided details on her utility’s pilot program called “Power Your Drive,” which seeks to install 3,000 charging stations at 300 facilities. The facilities are limited to apartment complexes, condos and businesses.

“We are pretty residential,” Parikh said in reference to SDG&E’s service territory. When the utility thought about what was important to drive EV adoption in its service territory, “we knew that we had to look at where are our customers” are going to charge. “Well, primarily they’re going to charge in their homes and the second place they’re probably going to charge is at work. So those seemed to be the two areas that we wanted to focus on.”

But she pointed out that in San Diego, “about half of our residential customers don’t live in a single- family home. They live in an apartment. They live in a condo.” Parikh said that getting charging infrastructure in a condo complex is very hard “and we were never going to be able to see the numbers of EV growth if we didn’t address the need to have charging infrastructure in apartments and condos,” which is what the pilot focuses on.

Grid integrated rate

SDG&E asked vendors “to come forward with the ability to provide a solution that accommodated a day ahead hourly grid integrated rate.” What this means is that SDG&E customers “would have the ability to look at their phone app and know day ahead, by hour what is the rate that they will be charged for that amount of electricity.”

Parikh said that this was “no small feat. We’re pleased to see that vendors have come forward to accommodate those solutions. The hourly rate – at a very high level – takes our base electric rate,” and layers on a commodity base rate, which takes the day ahead California ISO commodity price, “and then it adds a system adder, if there is a system adder for that day.” It then layers on the distribution component, “which really looks at our circuits, and thinks about what are the circuit adders and what are the peaks on the circuit?”

The SDG&E official said that “our customers are not charging when they see high prices and they don’t even have to tell the system to do that – the system does it for them.”

 Managing load is key, Greenlots official says

For his part, Hauser said that EV load is increasing significantly. “EVs make up about one percent of all vehicles on the road today,” but he said that “we are going to start to see significant adoption beyond the one percent.”

Hauser said that “how we manage that load is going to be critical.” He said that early studies that were done about the impacts on the distribution grid “felt that it wasn’t going to be a big impact.” But those studies were done when the Chevy Volt was introduced, along with the first-generation Nissan Leaf. But now, there are EVs that have “Tesla-like range and Chevy Volt like prices.”

Hauser said that every EV “pretty much represents an additional single-family home on a network. So if you’ve got a subdivision that’s been built for 10 homes and three of those homes get EVs, you’ve now got 13 homes that are supposed to be supported by a distribution circuit for 10. So how do you manage that?”

Greenlots is an EV charging and grid services software company.

Electrify America

Meanwhile, Fietzek detailed the background and work of Electrify America.

Electrify America was created to manage the $2 billion over the next decade that will be provided by Volkswagen Group of America to invest in zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure in the U.S. and to build awareness of EVs. The money will come from Volkswagen as a result of a partial settlement with the car company in court fights over the VW emissions-cheating scandal.

“What we’re doing in the first cycle, which is until June next year, and we’re halfway through – we’re installing 484 charging stations across 40 states,” in a number of metro areas.

“We’re going to deploy over 2,000 DC fast chargers, high powered chargers, and over 2,800 level 2 chargers together with partners like Greenlots” and others.

In comments submitted to Electrify America earlier this year, the American Public Power Association said that the group should consider charging infrastructure investments in public power communities, which represent ideal charging station infrastructure candidates.