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A Maturing Ecosystem: From Passive to Active Managed Charging

The State of Managed Charging in 2021 identifies progress over the last three years

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consensus exists across the transportation and electricity ecosystems that high levels of electric vehicle (EV) penetration in light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicle segments are both inevitable and necessary. To prepare for this future, a new report from the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) provides an overview of major developments in the EV managed charging landscape, and recommendations for designing, implementing, and adapting utility managed charging programs.

Managing EV charging is an important tool that utilities, fleet owners, network operators, and retailers can use to avoid distribution upgrade bottlenecks and mitigate unnecessary stresses on and costs to the power grid. Over the past five years, managed charging programs have grown in number, program size, sophistication, and diversity in approach, and are now widely accepted as a fundamental component of planning for electric vehicles.

“Most US drivers have not yet adopted a default charging behavior – because they don’t yet own an EV,” said Garrett Fitzgerald, senior director, electrification at SEPA. “This presents a massive opportunity for utilities to influence customer charging habits in a way that maximizes benefit to the power sector without compromising driver convenience. The shift from passive to active managed charging, alongside the pairing of networked chargers with vehicle telematics-based programs is one step closer to a vehicle-to-grid future.”

Utilities are beginning to move beyond piloting demand response and EV Time-of-Use (TOU) programs towards full implementation and scaling. As of 2021, SEPA identified 71 active utility managed charging programs compared to 26 programs in 2019. Trends in electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE) and network service providers (NSP) also favor improved managed charging capabilities, including continued vendor growth in networked Level 2 and DC fast chargers, increased interoperability, using protocols like OCPP, OpenADR and Plug & Charge, and the emergence of Charging-as-a-Service business models.

“When implemented correctly, managed EV charging has the potential to benefit utilities, their customers, and the planet,” said Joseph Vellone, head of North America at ev.energy. “This report highlights some impressive results from innovative EV charging programs across the US, including reliable demand-side management through >80% customer retention, customer energy-bill savings of $200/year, and utilization of 70% lower-carbon electricity to charge.”

Other findings in the report include:

  • Utilities are becoming more comfortable with managed charging technologies and concepts, and are now focused on how to increase customer participation.
  • Telematics has emerged as an integrated offering beyond pilot-scale.
  • Early observations from the COVID pandemic has shown that customer charging is more evenly distributed throughout the afternoon, extending the peak from 5-11pm.
  • Capabilities among NSP and EVSE vendors are expanding to offer managed charging services to fleets.
  • Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) is experiencing increased interest and capabilities: 25% of surveyed utilities are currently piloting or planning V2G programs.
  • Utilities go through multiple stages of program implementation, beginning with TOU programs, evolving to active managed charging for demand response, and eventually reaching continuously optimized managed charging programs.

Active Managed Charging

“Managed charging is gaining momentum across the country, and utilities are increasingly seeking actionable information and guidance,” said Stacy Noblet, senior director of transportation electrification and climate center senior fellow at ICF. “This report is a valuable resource for utilities of all sizes and structures, no matter the scale of their existing transportation electrification programs, as they consider how to design and implement successful managed charging programs.”

SEPA offers the following recommendations based on utility trends, utility interviews, a review of the vendor landscape, and a set of seven case studies:

  • Plan for programs to evolve to meet system needs and be feasible at scale. For the surveyed utilities, programs were designed for an average 10,000 EVs.
  • Structure programs such that the default behavior benefits both the customer and the grid.
  • When possible, implement managed charging programs to allow participation via OEM telematics and networked chargers.
  • Include customer education in the marketing and recruitment phases of the project, and provide technical education after enrollment.
  • Leverage dealerships, in-app messaging, and traditional marketing to educate and inform customers who are not currently EV owners.

“Managed charging is the most exciting opportunity for utilities to meet their decarbonization, customer satisfaction, and network management goals,” said Kevin Schwain, senior director of EV strategy at EnergyHub. “EnergyHub is thrilled to help utilities across the country run customer-centric EV managed charging programs to unlock value for end customers, the grid, and energy markets alongside other classes of DERs”.

The report also includes detailed product and service offerings from 71 managed charging programs, 64 EVSE vendors, and 43 Network Service Providers. The appendices include information about charging protocols, network communication interfaces, and partnerships among different companies and utilities.

“Managed charging is a key part of Revel’s plan to lead cities to a zero carbon future,” said Paul Suhey, co-founder and head of rideshare & EV infrastructure at Revel. “By reducing stress on the grid via smart charging, our Brooklyn Superhub doesn’t just make EVs a more viable option for New Yorkers – it actually moves the needle on the transition to renewable energy.”

The State of Managed Charging in 2021 was produced in partnership with OpenADR, EnergyHub, ev.energy, ChargePoint, and ICF. SEPA would also like to thank E4TheFuture for providing the initial funding that made this report possible.

Media contact: Jordan Nachbar [email protected]; 202-559-2034