Powering Strong Communities

Snohomish County PUD launches study of EV driving and charging patterns

Washington State’s Snohomish County PUD is teaming up with FleetCarma on a two-year study of driving and charging patterns and other data related to electric vehicles.

The study was launched earlier this month, with eligible drivers starting to register for the study on Sept. 9, Snohomish County PUD noted. The study hit its limit of 100 participants later that week. There is currently a waiting list for customers.

Suzanne Frew, PUD Senior Project Manager Strategy and Emerging Technology, noted that "We have over 6,000 EV owners in our service territory and many are 'enthusiasts' who want to share their data to support the growth of electric vehicles. We had many interested prior to the rollout but with any program, you never know the customer response. On Sept. 9, we launched the program and sent out an email promoting the new program to our EV Customer Community, which has approximately 1,000 customers. In about a week, we were up to 112 participants in the study, so we have 12 customers currently on the waiting list. It was good to see the response and level of customer interest."

With respect to what motivated the PUD to do this study, Frew said there were two main drivers/goals for the program.

The first was to learn more about the PUD’s customers who regularly drive electric vehicles -- both their driving and charging habits. “Our service territory is a mix of rural and suburban areas, and many of our customers have long commutes throughout the Puget Sound region. We want to find out where and when our EV owners are driving and charging their vehicles,” she noted.

FleetCarma will provide information on charging duration and load plus trip data that the PUD can use to inform rate schedules, grid impacts, charging infrastructure needs and potential customer programs.

“The second goal was to find out if we could change their charging behavior to lower the impact on our grid. The first year of the program establishes a baseline and the second year provides incentives to those customers who charge off peak. Our goal is to encourage all of our EV drivers to charge off peak to increase the benefit to all of our ratepayers,” said Frew.

To be eligible, drivers must be a Snohomish PUD customer, live year-round in the PUD’s service territory and own or lease an EV or plug-in EV through fall 2022.

Study participants will install a small device in their vehicle that collects and transmits vehicle information via a cellular connection, Snohomish County PUD said in a news release.

Data collected will be shared with participants through a personalized portal and will be used by FleetCarma, a Toronto, Canada-based company that collects driving and charging data to help utilities better understand EVs, and the PUD to better understand EVs and charging impacts to the grid. Customer data will not be sold to outside parties or used for marketing purposes, the PUD said.

Based on meeting certain qualifications, participating customers can receive up to $185 over the two years of the study. Payments are based on installing the device and providing vehicle driving and charging data and off-peak charging in both years of the study.

FleetCarma’s installed device will collect information about charging session duration, energy consumption and location. GPS charging location coordinates will be used to determine how much charging is occurring within the PUD’s service territory and trip duration, energy consumption and distance traveled.

Addressing the question of why SnoPUD decided to partner with FleetCarma on the study, Frew said that FleetCarma offered a turn-key solution and unique features that other vendors did not. "We also established a good working relationship where we explained our needs and jointly worked toward the best solution. They have continued to evolve their product which is a key to success for emerging technology."

LES partnering with FleetCarma

Public power utility Lincoln Electric System (LES) is partnering with FleetCarma on a similar project to study charging and driving habits of customers in the Lincoln, Neb., area over a 2-year period.

LES was previously awarded a $46,075 grant from the American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments program to help support the project.

In July, APPA hosted a webinar about the project. Additional details about the webinar are available here.