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An Action Plan to Integrate Plug-in Electric Vehicles with the U.S. Electrical Grid

1 Introduction

The Action Plan focuses on the steps necessary to integrate PEVs with the U.S. electrical grid using market-based solutions that foster innovation, minimize public cost, and maintain grid reliability.

Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) offer a rare opportunity to save oil, and thereby address four top policy concerns in the United States today: energy security, air quality, climate change, and economic growth.Although the efficiency of and emissions from new conventional vehicles are expected to improve significantly in coming years, the U.S. passenger vehicle fleet still accounts for more than 40 percent of U.S. oil demand, emits 16 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and continues to be a major contributor to local air quality problems. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy faces serious global and domestic challenges, including an uncertain environment of volatile oil prices. PEVs can help mitigate these problems and have sparked the interest of government, electric utilities, businesses, and consumers nationwide.

PEVs are the latest alternative vehicle mass-produced by automakers in the ongoing advancement of passenger vehicles in the United States. Over the next two to three years, all major automakers - and some startups - intend to put PEVs on the road. These vehicles include battery electric vehicles (BEVs) powered only by electricity stored in batteries.PEVs also include battery-powered vehicles with extended-range capability typically leveraging a gasoline system (referred to as extended-range EVs, or EREVs), and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which enhance gasoline vehicles with a plug-in battery system. As of January 2012, Americans had purchased almost 18,000 PEVs (over 7,600 Chevrolet Volts, 9,600 Nissans LEAFs, and 350 Smart EDs). By the end of 2012, many new additional passenger PEVs will be available including the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Ford Focus EV, Mitsubishi i, Coda Sedan, and Tesla Model S.

To capitalize on this opportunity, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)[1] convened a broad and diverse stakeholder dialogue in the beginning of 2011 to develop AnAction Plan to Integrate Plug-in Electric Vehicles with the U.S. Electrical Grid. The PEV Dialogue Group includes known leaders from all levels of government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).This national-level assessment brings the best information and experience to bear on integrating PEVs with the electrical grid, relying on the lessons learned from active groups working together on PEV deployment at the local and state level. The aim of the Action Plan is to identify steps that would accelerate the adoption of PEVs nationwide by overcoming challenges to PEV integration with the electrical grid. The plan is not a technical specification for physically integrating PEVs with the grid. Nor is the plan a comprehensive document that looks at every aspect of the PEV market (e.g., methods to reduce the upfront cost of the vehicle). Instead, it identifies actions that would foster PEV market growth in the area of state-level regulations, public and private investments in charging infrastructure, PEV rollout, and consumer education. The Group focused on these areas because existing efforts have not addressed these challenges adequately.

To construct the plan, the Group used a consensusprocess that identified the intersection of stakeholder ideas and objectives. The Group also sought to optimize private and public investments in vehicle charging infrastructure including residential and non-residential charging. Lastly, the Group avoided favoring certain PEV technology, such as BEVs over PHEVs.[2]

TheAction Plan addresses the roles of various government players, NGOs,electric utilities, and other businesses, lays out a timeline for critical steps, and describes an adaptive strategy that takes into account lessons learned.

C2ES authored two papers to inform the Group during development of the Action Plan:

The Group relied on these papers, outside experts, as well as extensive input from dialogue participants including in-person meetings, to develop the details of the Action Plan. In formulating the plan, the Group considered the opportunities PEVs provide including those related to energy security, local air quality, global climate change, and the economy.

The solutions outlined in the Action Plan contain interdependencies requiring action by all stakeholders (see Figure ES‑1). For instance, automakers can influence consumer interest in PEVs based on the volume of vehicles they plan to make available in a geographic area, and vice versa. Also, the amount of public investment needed for charging infrastructure depends on the degree of consumer interest in PEVs, the type of PEVs (BEVs, EREVs, or PHEVs), and PEV drivers' use patterns.

It is possible that hundreds of thousands of Americans will begin driving PEVs in the next several years. President Obama has set a national goal to deploy one million of these vehicles by 2015. Ensuring successful early adoption will involve overcoming initially higher vehicle purchase costs and ensuring there is adequate infrastructure. Success for PEVs will ultimately mean reaching mainstream consumers, and to do that, action is necessary on a number of fronts.

Thus far, PEV pilot projects across the United States, enabled through public-private partnerships, have been critical in the early stages of the PEV market. The continuation and expansion of these partnerships is needed to reach markets beyond early adopters. In doing so, applying best practices and lessons learned from these efforts is critical. However, new projects of the same scale will likely require a much larger share of private capital considering the current fiscal environment. Given that PEV deployment including electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE)[3] must ultimately occur through markets and private enterprise, stakeholders must seek and develop viable models that can stand on their own, though public investment remains a crucial catalyst in early-stage adoption.

Soon consumers will have many choices of PEVs to purchase - including PHEVs, EREVs, and BEVs. This increase in choice is good for both businesses and consumers, though PEV market growth is uncertain.Getting the market beyond early adopters depends on the successful implementation of the elements contained in the Action Plan. It requires action by both public and private players. The number of public entities relevant for PEV sales is unprecedented in personal transportation; and no individual private company by itself can provide the electricity and support services PEV owners need. Thus, numerous public and private entities must work together to facilitate the rollout of PEVs.

Updated: 03/27/2014
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