Lessons from early days of EV charging

Fleets are the future, demand management is key

ELECTRIC VEHICLES are crucial to reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change. That’s why governors from coast to coast have announced that they will ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, and why automakers from GM to Ford to Nissan have announced countless new EVs coming to the market in the next five to 10 years.

But to realize the full potential of electric vehicles, drivers need to feel confident in their ability to find charging anywhere and everywhere. In fact, a recent research report by Morning Consult found that a quarter of the public would only consider an EV with 500-plus miles of range. While that may not be an option quite yet, robust charging infrastructure in convenient locations can make even a 200-plus mile range vehicle seem like double the range and help conquer range anxiety.

That’s why Eversource set out to increase access to EVs this past year, by supporting 100 percent of new infrastructure costs for thousands of new charging stations. Here’s what we learned in the process:

The expansion of charging infrastructure must go hand-in-hand with reliability and demand management.

When level 2 (L2) and DC Fast Charge (DCFC) charging stations were deployed, it was clear that they would help accelerate the EV charging market and support state greenhouse gas reduction goals. However, demand management was another crucial piece of the puzzle. Demand management tools provide incentives to customers for letting the utility adjust the settings on their charging stations at times of high demand to improve grid reliability and avoid the need for additional power generation.

Customers were receptive and eager to earn incentives through demand management and maximize the carbon reducing potential of their charging stations.

In other words, we soon found that managing stakeholder relationships is key. 

Implementing and expanding EV charging infrastructure takes a breadth of stakeholders – from energy companies to charging station manufacturers and EV network providers to local municipalities to site hosts and even to the drivers themselves.

While there is great interest in EV charging, many customers are surprised to learn about the full costs of installing EV charging stations and the benefits of creating a separately metered service for those stations. And, in a booming and crowded EV solution marketplace, customers looked for recommendations for reputable charging station manufacturers, installers, and network providers. So, it was key to provide customer education and create a vetted vendor list early on.

At the same time, stakeholder groups, including local and state governments and advocacy organizations, collaborated to ensure EV programs benefited all. Eversource has proudly exceeded its goal for 10 percent of sites in Environmental Justice communities. But that’s not nearly enough. Future EV programs will continue to include equity goals and ensure everyone can participate in the EV revolution.

Fleets are the future. 

As we look beyond the first iteration of EV programs, one thing is clear: fleets are the future. With the Biden administration’s recently announced plan to electrify the federal fleet, and companies like Amazon and FedEx transitioning their delivery fleets to EVs, it’s clear that the most immediate and significant impact on carbon emissions lies in those vehicles that rack up miles faster than your average passenger vehicle. We’re looking forward to working with rideshare companies, delivery companies, and more as we look ahead to the next iteration of the program.

But the majority of charging is still done at home.

Meet the Author

James Cater

Program lead for EV infrastructure, Eversource
Eversource’s first EV program focused on public sites with long dwell times, such as workplaces and shopping centers, but we can’t escape the fact that the majority of EV charging is done at home. And as more affordable and accessible EVs come to market and states begin to implement EV mandates, EV owners will inevitably expand beyond those residents of single-family homes who enjoy driveway and garage charging to include apartment and condo dwellers who need convenient places to charge where they already live, work, and play. Now that we have a working model to expand on in the public realm, our future EV programs will put more emphasis on how we can expand residential access to EV charging, including specific goals related to residents of multi-family buildings.

James Cater is the Eversource program lead for EV infrastructure.