Electric vehicles make moves, providing balancing services, along East Coast

Electric vehicles (EVs) benefit the grid by providing balancing services– balancing short-term supply and demand changes in the grid.

Tracy Miehlke, senior analyst, and Joseph Callis, senior business solutions engineer, both from PJM Interconnection’s Applied Solutions, told TransmissionHub through a PJM spokesperson that this can be accomplished by either adjusting the consumption of EVs or by a traditional vehicle-to-grid setup, where the vehicle would be able to put power back on the grid.

PJM is evaluating the impact EVs will have on the electric system.

“More importantly, we are looking to determine what kind of value can be derived through the use of EVs,” they added. “Two areas of interest for PJM [have] been energy storage and the use of aggregated retail resources to provide value to the wholesale energy system (including the markets). Electric vehicles combine both of those interests.”

Along with PJM, the New York ISO is among the regions in the United States looking into EVs, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushing for expanding the growth of EV charging stations in the state.

Having the infrastructure available is key as according to Brendan Jones, director of EV infrastructure strategy and deployment with Nissan, which has seen sales of its Nissan LEAF grow in the country, “a more robust charging infrastructure generates greater interest in EVs and stimulates more EV driving among EV owners.”

With EVs entering the marketplace, utilities, grid operators, carmakers and politicians throughout the East Coast are working on balancing consumer needs with infrastructure requirements.

PJM

The biggest impact to the electric system is to the distribution system, Miehlke and Callis said, noting that large-scale integration of EVs may require distribution companies to upgrade neighborhood – pole-top – transformers.

“One aspect that could pose potential problems is if everyone goes home at night and charges their vehicles at the same time as making dinner, turning on lights, TVs, turning down the A/C, etc.,” they said. “We will see more demand, which means that we will need more generation to accommodate.”

PJM is looking at a couple of solutions: smart charging and traditional vehicle-to-grid solutions. The first will require that EVs be aware of the wholesale price of energy and be able to make “intelligent” decisions based on that, they added. In a vehicle-to-grid scenario, energy would be able to flow both directions – from the grid to the vehicle and reverse.

An additional concern is that an EV – when used as a grid service – will not be available to PJM when really needed. “The other potential problem is in a scenario where the consumer needs the EV fully charged by 6 p.m., on a hot summer day, because of heading out on vacation,” they added. “Whatever solution we come up with needs to be able to account for such scenarios.”

They also said, “Distribution companies should continue considering the potential impact of electrical vehicles into their long-term infrastructure planning.”

PJM and the University of Delaware started a small pilot project with four or five vehicles a few years ago. The pilot was successful in that it demonstrated that EVs can provide balancing services to the grid, they added. In April, the University of Delaware and NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG) entered the balancing market with a fleet of all-electric Mini-E vehicles – as a revenue-earning resource. This was the first production resource of its kind – in that it used EVs to earn revenue in the energy markets, they added.

According to an April 26 statement from Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, the university and NRG began work in September 2011 to move from research results to prepare to commercialize the technology, which provides a two-way interface between EVs and the power grid that enables vehicle owners to sell electricity back to the grid while they are charging their EVs.

In February, the project took a big step forward when it became an official participant in the PJM’s frequency regulation market. Frequency regulation is used to balance supply and demand on the grid second-by-second, the statement added. Since then, the project has been selling power services from a fleet of EVs to PJM.

A key aspect of the technology is that it can aggregate power from multiple electric vehicles to create one larger power resource, rather than individual, smaller ones, according to the statement. Additional company partnerships that make up the entire system include BMW AG providing the EVs, Milbank Manufacturing providing charging stations based on UD technology and AutoPort Inc. installing UD control technology into the EVs.

For grid operators, the technology serves as an innovative new approach to energy storage, as it has the potential to balance the power provided by intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar, the statement added. Energy storage, including large-scale batteries or those in a fleet of vehicles, can take the wind’s power generated at night and store it for use when demand is higher.

The technology is expected to initially help managers of commercial EV fleets by providing revenue while the vehicles are parked, with individual EV owners to eventually follow, the statement added, noting that the system is in development with restricted test fleets and is not now a commercial offering, according to the statement.

“This demonstrates that EVs can provide both mobility and stationary power while helping making the grid more resilient and ultimately generating revenue for electric vehicle owners,” NRG Executive Vice President Denise Wilson, who leads the company’s emerging businesses, said in the statement.

“Moving innovative ideas out of the classroom and into the marketplace is critical to growing our economy,” Markell said in the statement, referencing the NRG and university partnership.

New York

According to Cuomo, removing regulatory barriers will encourage New Yorkers to use fuel-efficient vehicles, as well as grow the clean energy industry and create jobs in New York.

“New York is leading the way toward an electric vehicle future, and moving our green energy economy forward,” the governor said in a May 24 statement.

Cuomo directed the state Public Service Commission (PSC) to review existing policies to ensure that regulations promote the evolution of the EV market in New York, with the initial focus of the review focusing on PSC jurisdiction over public charging stations as a way to increase the availability of charging stations, or whether it should allow the rollout of charging stations to occur at its own pace, according to the statement.

In coming months, the review will expand to review policies regarding metering and rates as well as whether modifications are needed to the electric grid to support EVs. It will also examine the extent the state’s solar policies, under the NY Sun Initiative, can be utilized to offset potential increases in peak demand that may result from expanded use of electric vehicle charging equipment, the statement added.

The areas addressed initially and in coming months include determining PSC jurisdiction over charging stations; addressing utilities as owners or operators of charging stations; examining the impact of electric vehicle charging on electric infrastructure; considering utility metering and rate issues; and identifying consumer issues, according to the statement.

In the past two years, the New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) has invested $8m to help fund 600 charging stations, with state funding helping to leverage millions of dollars more in cost-sharing through private investment, NYSERDA spokesperson Alan Wechsler told TransmissionHub.

There are currently more than 4,000 electric vehicles registered in New York State – most privately owned, personal vehicles – with more than 500 charging stations.  

“The state recognizes the need to increase the number of charging stations to create a network to reduce range anxiety and help promote increased investment in electric cars and trucks around the state,” he added.

To accomplish that, Cuomo announced in this year’s State of the State address the creation of Charge NY, an aggressive plan to expand the growth of EV charging stations in the state. Under that program, the state plans to spend more than $50m over the next five years to help develop the EV market in New York, which will include installing up to 3,000 new charging stations.

Wechsler further noted that Charge NY also calls for updating zoning and parking rules, streamlining state regulations, adding EVs to the state fleet and creating tax credits to encourage the installation of new charging stations. 

The immediate review and the removal of regulatory barriers supports the Charge NY initiative to create a statewide network of up to 3,000 public and workplace charging stations over the next five years and to put up to 40,000 plug-in vehicles on the road by 2018 and one million in 2025, according to the governor’s statement.

Nissan makes moves

Jones said in a May 15 statement that Nissan has learned how infrastructure plays a role in a consumer’s decision to go all-electric.

“We already knew that areas with a higher concentration of EVs would require more charging stations, but trends show that the reverse is also true – a more robust charging infrastructure generates greater interest in EVs and stimulates more EV driving among EV owners,” he said.

Since announcing plans earlier this year to triple the number of quick chargers from 200 to 600 in the U.S., Nissan and its charging partners have installed about 50 additional units where interest in Nissan LEAF and EVs is highest, Nissan said.

Jones said in the statement that Nissan is taking a three-pronged approach to bolster infrastructure by working with commercial charging partners to bring various charging options to customers, collaborating with businesses to encourage workplace charging on their campuses and engaging in pilots with its dealers to determine how to optimize the role they can play in EV infrastructure.

According to a Jan. 31 statement, Nissan is working with its dealers, local municipalities and infrastructure partners, including NRG and its eVgo Network, to increase the current number of public charging options.

A key part of that infrastructure enhancement, Nissan said, is eVgo’s greater Washington, D.C. ecosystem, which will include a network of 40 eVgo “Freedom Station” sites across the area. Each site will have a Nissan fast charger that can provide EVs with up to an 80% charge in less than 30 minutes.

NRG’s investment of about $150m in EV charging infrastructure through its subsidiary eVgo will provide EV drivers with access to hundreds of public fast-charging sites along with level 2 – or 240-volt – charging stations at homes, offices, multi-family communities, schools and hospitals across Texas, California and the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, Nissan added. Service plans offered by eVgo allow EV owners to avoid paying large up-front costs for a charger and provide unlimited charging at Freedom Station sites for a monthly fee.

In a May 14 statement, Nissan said it and Car Charging Group will work together to make EV charging more readily available and to expand consumer awareness of the EV market.

Nissan said its quick charger stations reduce charging times, charging a fully depleted Nissan LEAF to 80% capacity in about 30 minutes. The initial goal is to deploy the 48 Nissan-branded quick chargers primarily in California and on the East Coast.

Nissan and Car Charging will determine the placement of the chargers, which are expected to be in key markets throughout the United States by the end of the year.

Nissan, which assembles LEAF, its battery and its electric motor in Tennessee, said in its May 15 statement that it introduced the 2013 LEAF with more customer-focused features and an expanded range of trim levels to include a more attainable version and models with more premium amenities such as leather seats. U.S. pricing for the 2013 LEAF begins at $28,800 and, depending on location, some consumers may get the vehicle for as little as $18,800 by qualifying for federal and state tax credits.

According to Paige Presley, corporate communications specialist with Nissan North America, Nissan LEAF was the top-performing Nissan model in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Honolulu.

On July 2, Nissan said sales of the Nissan LEAF in June were 2,225 units, with LEAF deliveries in the first half of 2013 being 9,839, exceeding the sales total from all of 2012.

Presley told TransmissionHub that Nissan LEAF recently crossed the 25,000 sales threshold.

“With more than 25,000 LEAFs in the U.S. and 62,000 around the world, we’re seeing the adoption curve for EVs accelerate, and there is tremendous interest not only on the West Coast but in a number of new strongholds like Atlanta, Raleigh, Denver, Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis and many more,” Erik Gottfried, Nissan director of EV marketing and sales strategy, said in the May 15 statement.

Florida

On a larger scale, the continued adoption of EVs reduces the need for foreign oil and promotes Florida Power & Light (FPL) clean, domestic fuel sources, “so the fact that our fleet is a green fleet definitely promotes that,” Florencia Contesse, senior communication specialist, Marketing & Communication, with FPL, told TransmissionHub.

FPL “absolutely supports” the use of EVs for its company and customers, she said.

FPL has one of the largest green utility fleets in the nation and includes more than 500 hybrid and plug-in electric vehicle models such as the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan LEAF, Navistar E-Star and Ford EV Transit Connect, she said.

The company was the first utility in the U.S. to put a medium-duty hybrid bucket truck into service in 2006, and it currently operates hybrid bucket trucks as part of its restoration specialist fleet.

“[W]e work actively to engage community leaders, our customers and all of our stakeholders to create awareness and education for electric vehicles,” Contesse said.

FPL’s program focuses on addressing customers’ needs and expectations on EVs. The company serves “as a source of information to answer their questions and make sure that we create awareness for it and also to provide information on safe and affordable charging,” she said.

“We actively work with local municipalities and our business customers and some other industry associations to share our expertise of what greening our fleet has done for us and our experience there, and also doing a lot of customer education initiatives and outreach,” Contesse said.

FPL does local events throughout the year to help answer customers’ questions on the matter, as well as outreach presentations at industry events, she said. The company’s website, www.fpl.com/electricvehicles, also provides information, she said.

Florida is one of the leading states for EV sales, “so, there’s definitely an increase in demand,” she said. “For us, what’s really important is to plan and make it a priority to look for ways to provide our customers with affordable and reliable electric service as this demand increases. Chief for us is really looking ahead.”

Consequently, the company is doing research to understand those charging impacts on the grid and on power quality. “We’re looking at charging times and load impacts and all the variables and how that impacts the electric grid,” she said, noting that FPL is working with industry groups that are performing studies to better understand the issue.

Last year, the company launched a residential plug-in electric vehicle charging pilot program with some customers to better understand their experience with electric vehicle charging, she said.

Contesse noted that FPL offers competitive rates “where we deliver 99.98% reliability and our prices are 25% below the national average, so EV drivers that are plugging in are certainly benefiting from our affordable electric rates. That’s one of the key ways in which we provide that affordable and reliable service.”

EV drivers can charge up for about 80% less than what they would spend on the gas pump, or about 77 cents per gallon. “[W]ith our typical residential customer bills being the lowest in the state, and 25% below the national average, those EV drivers are definitely getting better value,” she added.

As to whether there are periods of time during the day that customers should plug in their EVs, she said, “It really depends on the vehicle and on the customer.”

A lot of customers do plug in in the evening hours once they return home from work, as that is most convenient to them, she said. “[I]t really depends on the customer, but that’s what you typically see with electric vehicle drivers,” she said.

FPL sees great benefits in EV use for itself and its customers, and will continue pushing those efforts forward by, for instance, expanding its own green fleet.

FPL is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE).

New England

ISO New England spokesperson Marcia Blomberg told TransmissionHub that plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) concentrations are still very low in New England, with no noticeable impact on load now or for the immediate future.

Still, efforts in such states as Rhode Island and Vermont continue.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee in June unveiled an EV charging station at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., the first in a network of up to 50 EV charging stations to be installed throughout the state over the next three months, according to a June 18 statement.

He noted that some of the public charging stations will be installed at the state beaches and recreation areas managed by the state Department of Environmental Management.

Chafee also noted that the state will transition its fleet to alternative fuel vehicles.

“Supporting electric vehicle transportation in Rhode Island will provide a boost to the state economy, saving money on gas and keeping dollars that would have been spent on imported oil here in Rhode Island,” Chafee said in the statement.

The State Office of Energy Resources awarded the $781,225 contract to site and install the charging stations to ChargePoint, which is working with National Grid plc subsidiary National Grid USA.

“Plug-in electric vehicles are more than just a new way to get around,” Edward White, vice president, customer and business strategy for National Grid, said in the statement. “They are a major part of a cleaner, more efficient transportation future.”

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois also recently unveiled the first sites of the Vermont-Quebec Electric Charging Corridor, which is the result of an agreement between Drive Electric Vermont and the Quebec-based Electric Circuit.

The corridor will initially link Burlington, Vt., and Montréal and, with more than 20 charging stations installed along the route, will assure EV drivers that they can charge when needed along the route between Vermont and Québec, the governor’s statement added. 

The number of charging stations is expected to increase with the signing of new partnership agreements, and construction of the stations is progressing smoothly, with the 138-mile corridor, including I-89 and Highway A-10, Rte 104 and Rte 133, expected to open this fall.

Shumlin said in the statement: “Alternative fuel vehicles lower our reliance on gasoline, helping both our environment and our energy independence. With the number of alternative energy vehicles growing at tremendous rates, these stations, along with websites identifying their location, will support visitors and residents as they use this clean and efficient mode of transportation.”

The initiative stems from discussions that began at the most recent Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, according to the statement. Vermont, Québec and a group including Hydro-Québec, Green Mountain Power, the Burlington Electric Department, and Drive Electric Vermont, are looking into other ways to bolster public infrastructure for electric cars, the statement noted.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3113 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.