Increasing rates of electric vehicle (EV) adoption across North America, combined with advances in EV batteries and charging technology, will impact electric utility distribution infrastructure at a higher rate than previously projected. New electric vehicles differ greatly from older models, with drastic improvements over the last five years. In order to highlight these significant changes, FleetCarma conducted a study, that analyzed charging and driving data, which created two segments: one representing what would have been on the road in 2014 and what is currently on the road now.
The data from almost 4,000 electric vehicles sends a clear message – long-range BEVs are a game-changer for electric utilities.
Long-range BEVs have redefined the EV ecosystem
As the fastest-growing vehicle type, long-range battery electric vehicles (BEVs) continue to represent a larger proportion of new EV sales. The long-range BEV has increased in proportion of new electric vehicle sales from 14% in 2014 to 66% in 2019 in the United States. In fact 4 of 5 today’s top selling EVs not in production in 2014 and the Tesla Model 3, which came into production in 2017, accounted for 47% of all new US electric vehicle sales in 2019. Any previous studies, which did not include these vehicles, no longer provide an accurate representation of the impact of today’s EVs.
Today’s EVs are very different from older models
The single biggest finding in the data study was that long-range BEVs, which are defined as fully electric vehicles with a battery capacity of 50 kWh or greater, are significantly different from other types of EVs. Since they are driven more, and have a larger battery, it is no surprise that they consume twice as much energy.
What utilities may find surprising is that they aren’t charging over a longer period, the average time spent charging for both vehicle groups was between 3 and 3.5 hours. However, when they are charging they are using twice as much power.
This fact, in conjunction with the fact that the charging behavior of these EVs is harder to predict, means that utilities are going to have a tougher time integrating these vehicles into their load management programs.
The increasing impact to the grid at the street level
The biggest risk posed by EVs is at the distribution level of the grid. EV clustering is a trend that shows that EVs may not be distributed evenly across the utility service territory, with the high likelihood of EV owner concentration on a specific street or neighborhood. To simulate this, five vehicles from each vehicle type were selected at random and their load was combined for a randomly selected day. This would represent the vehicles being charged on the same residential transformer. The results clearly show that long-range BEVs have significantly higher power draws as this group had an average max power peak of 7.34 kW.
It’s not just the vehicles that have changed
Electric vehicle charging technology has evolved to accommodate the needs of newer long-range electric vehicles. There are two types of charging stations used by EV owners at home. Level 1 charging utilizes a standard 110/120 V plug which can provide up to 1.9 kW of charging power, or approximately 4.5 miles of range per hour. This level is decreasing in popularity simply because it takes too long to fully charge a newer vehicle that has a larger battery.
Level 2 charging utilizes a 208-240 V plug and can provide between 2.5 and 19.2 kW of charging power and over 40 miles of range per hour, making them the preferred home charging station. Not only are Level 2 charging stations becoming more popular, they are also becoming more powerful. In 2014, the most sold EV in the US was the Nissan Leaf, which has a maximum charging capability of 6.6 kW. By comparison, the most sold EV in 2019 was the Tesla Model 3, which has a maximum charging capability of 11.5 kW.
A lot has changed in 5 years, but the changes coming soon are even greater
Ultimately, the factor that has driven all of these changes was the increase of battery capacities in the newer vehicles. They made the vehicles more appealing, increasing the overall adoption, and they have a larger impact for utilities. However, this evolution is just the beginning. The popularity of these vehicles have driven down prices, meaning adoption will continue to grow, and there are new vehicles that are entering the market. A great example of incoming changes is the introduction of light duty trucks, such as the Rivian R1T that boasts a battery capacity of 180 kWh, which is almost twice the size of any current vehicle in the market. As the market continues to evolve it will be critical that utilities gather up-to-date data so they can properly manage this increasing load.
Download the Full Study here which includes:
- The importance of territory-specific load profiling
- How to shift EV charging load without Direct Load Control
- Impact of seasonal weather on charging behavior
- Changes in at home vs. away charging
- Comparison of driving distances per vehicle type
- Insight on DCFC usage and workplace charging changes