What Electric Cooperatives Need to Know About Electric Vehicles

Since early 2016 Collaborative Efficiency has been involved with two electric vehicle projects in the Northwest. Here are a few of the key findings we’ve learned along the way:

  • EVs are here to stay

EVs are no longer the stuff of science fiction – as of December 2016 there are nearly 600,000 EVs (including both all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) on U.S. roads. Although that represents less than 1 percent of the total U.S. passenger car fleet, sales are rising steadily. Market forecast predictions vary but all point to a continued rise in sales —a study by Google.org estimates that PEVs could make up as much as 70% of new light-duty vehicle sales by 2030.

  • EVs save drivers money

EVs can cost more upfront than gasoline-powered vehicles, but they’re cheaper to own. The annual cost of electricity to power a Nissan LEAF is about $500 based on driving 15,000 miles per year while paying $0.12 per kilowatt hour. The fuel cost of a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle would be $ 1,565—assuming a 23 miles per gallon fuel efficiency and a gas cost of $2 .40 per gallon. EVs are also cheaper to operate than conventional cars—this is mainly because electric motors are easier to maintain than internal combustion engines which have more parts and require more regular maintenance, such as oil changes.

  • EVs cut tailpipe emissions

EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions and result in lower carbon emissions than any comparable vehicle in most places around the country.

  • EVs are an opportunity for utilities

Transportation is the biggest economic sector relying on a form of energy other than electricity. Though light-duty vehicles make up the bulk of this sector, any vehicle with wheels can be electrified or hybridize d. This includes everything from airport shuttles to underground mining trucks. As part of a mature industry with a mature product, utilities don’t get many opportunities to grow load. Transportation electrification offers utilities an opportunity to spread their fixed costs, which reduces the cost of service for all ratepayers. In a recent post, Bill LeBlanc, senior advisor at energy research and consulting firm E Source, described EV load as “the best new electric load we’ll see for 50 years.”

  • EV load is malleable

EV load is uniquely malleable. EVs can charge at different speeds and at different power levels, and charging can be interrupted without inconveniencing drivers. A number of co-ops—such as Georgia co-op Jackson EMC—are shaping when EV load comes onto their system by offering EV owners special off-peak rates. As utility-EV communication improves, grid operators may be able to adjust the power flow to and from EVs based on EV location, a driver’s charging requirements, and real-time grid conditions. EVs can even be used for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications like frequency regulation.

  • EV education is lacking

There are a lot of misconceptions around EVs and many Americans have never seen or driven an EV. Co-ops can take a leadership role in providing their members with unbiased information on EVs. Minnesota G&T Great River Energy organized an Electric Vehicle Summit in June 2014 to discuss what role the G&T and its member co-ops might play in promoting electric vehicles. Participants came up with a number of recommendations, such as a “one-stop-shop” website for the state of Minnesota with information about purchasing and owning an EV. Illinois Rural Electric Co-op created a unique ad that communicates EV benefits and highlights the co-op’s EV on-bill financing program:

Co-ops across the country are starting to think more about what role they play in the EV market and how they can support members with EVs. Your co-op may have members who own or are thinking about buying EVs. Is your co-op ready?


Learn more about what your co-op can do to stay one step ahead of EVs by checking out our series of reports on EVs.

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