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Some utilities may not have local grid EV ready

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Many utilities may not have the local end of the grid up to par for electric vehicles such as the Nissan LEAF, according to a new study.

According to a recent report from Pike Research, many utilities could be unprepared to deal with the impact of EVs on the electrical grid, due to a lack of standards for sharing information between utilities and external systems.

“While plug-in electric vehicles will not threaten the integrity of the power grid as a whole, they will have an immediate local impact on neighborhood distribution infrastructure,” says senior analyst John Gartner.

“Many utilities are reluctant to make long-term investments in IT systems that will be necessary to support EV charging, often due to state-level regulatory structures that discourage such spending, and as a result they may be playing catch-up as more and more electrified vehicles drive off dealers’ lots,” he adds.

Gartner adds that the automotive, home networking, smart grid, and utility industries are collaborating with organizations, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to develop standards to establish first-time interoperability with grid equipment, but many of these standards will not be completed until 2012 or later.

Greater knowledge of the lifetime value of EV IT systems, including the financial benefits from reducing carbon emissions, would make it easier for utilities to justify the investment.
-- John Gartner, Senior Analyst, Pike Research

Utilities' wait-and-see EV approach
Utilities are largely taking a “wait and see” approach to EV IT investment and are assuming that the vehicles will not sell in sufficient numbers to impact grid performance for several years. Moreover, utilities’ understanding of the benefits of EV IT systems across all aspects of grid operations including load management, the use of renewable energy, and being able to avoid capital investment in generation and transmission equipment, are not well known today.

“Greater knowledge of the lifetime value of EV IT systems, including the financial benefits from reducing carbon emissions, would make it easier for utilities to justify the investment,” Gartner says.

Pike Research anticipates that worldwide investment in electric vehicle IT systems will reach $1.5 billion annually by 2015, with a cumulative total of $5.1 billion in spending between 2010 and 2015. However, according to the firm’s analysis, those levels of investment are far lower than other smart grid infrastructure categories, and may be insufficient to adequately prepare for the arrival of EVs in increasingly greater numbers over the next five years.

Pike Research’s report, “Electric Vehicle Information Technology Systems”, analyzes the IT requirements and market opportunities associated with managing EV charging and the interaction with grid resources. The report provides an examination of the information and communications systems for EV enablement within the utility grid infrastructure. It includes forecasts through 2015 for investment in EV information and communication technology in world regions, along with profiles of key industry players. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the firm’s web site.

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