Utility investments in customer programmes to accelerate EV adoption

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The majority of utilities in North America have plans to improve customer awareness of electric vehicles (EVs) to accelerate EV adoption and use over the coming years, a report released by Bidgely has revealed.

The report, based on a survey of some 150 utility professionals, states that improving customer insights on EVs will help guide energy companies in designing and implementing incentives and outreach programmes. This in turn would help utilities with resource planning and EV charging ratemaking.

Nine out the ten utility executives surveyed in the study entitled, What Utilities Know (And Don’t Know) About EV Drivers and How Better Customer Insights Can Maximize Utility Investments in Electric Vehicles, have indicated that their companies will be increasing investments in customer education and outreach programmes and in EV infrastructure development over the next two to three years. Of the surveyed executives, 42% say their firms have made investments to raise awareness about EV benefits.

Only 13% of utility executives said their companies had excellent quality insights into both the charging behavior of their current EV customers and the likelihood that other customers would buy an EV in the future.

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The report also highlights the importance of smart meters in providing house-level energy usage insights to identify EV charging patterns. The insights are vital in avoiding the grid network being stressed as a result of EV charging. Up to 37% of surveyed utilities say they are offering special EV charging rates.

With customers knowing the benefits of EVs and the availability of charging infrastructure increasing, customer adoption of EVs is highly likely to increase, according to the study.

Other key study findings include:

  • Utility investments in EVs, related infrastructure, and programmes are largely being driven by customer demand as highlighted by 61% of the survey respondents. 57% of the utility executives say revenue opportunities are driving the investments, whilst 46% say corporate sustainability goals. 32% of the executives cited carbon emissions reduction goals as the main driving factor.
  • 61% of utilities have already installed company-owned chargers to support EV ownership. This indicates that utilities are leading by example in accelerating the electrification of the transportation sector whether to reduce carbon emissions in line with customer, investor and regulatory demands or in aligning their operations with emerging business cases.
  • 51% offer financial incentives to encourage purchases of EVs. The high cost of EVs has in the past few years been identified as one of the main barriers to EV adoption hence providing customers with financial assistance is key to accelerating the race to electrification.

Heather Williams, director of strategy and growth for Bidgely in North America, said: “Historically speaking, utilities have relied on Department of Motor Vehicles data in order to understand where EVs are registered. But that data is really difficult to obtain in a timely manner, it doesn’t update on an ongoing basis and it doesn’t provide any insight into the charging behaviors or driving patterns of the EV owners.

“Lack of EV insights can impact where and how many charging stations are installed. You can end up putting in either the wrong number of chargers or chargers in the wrong locations because the decisions are based on an incomplete understanding of driving patterns.”

Find out more about the report.