A new flat fee proposal for EV charging in the US could help convince more drivers to ditch their gasmobiles and go electric sooner rather than later. There are some caveats, but if all goes according to plan, the result will be less dependence on fossil fuels, and less of the destructive baggage that goes with it, as most recently underscored by Russia’s murderous rampage through Ukraine.
EV Charging, Renewable Energy, & National Security
The US Department of Defense has already jumped on the idea that electrification and renewable energy can alleviate some of the security risks, conflicts, and geopolitical maneuvering that attend the global fossil fuel economy. In particular, the US Army has been experimenting with pathways for using renewable energy at forward operating bases and in combat, in addition to harvesting renewable energy at its permanent facilities. That includes field-deployable, self-forming microgrids that can scavenge any available fuel sources for soldiers in the field.
Dovetailing with that effort is the use of modular, transportable EV charging stations that produce their own electricity in a fuel cell, as currently demonstrated by the Extreme E electric SUV racing series.
For the Army, that would create new opportunities for forward actions that don’t depend on fuel convoys or airborne fuel drops. All-electric combat is far off in the future, but fuel efficiency and hybrid vehicles would still make a considerable cut in the Army’s dependence on fossil fuels.
A Flat Fee For EV Charging
The civilian EV transition is happening much more quickly, and that is the underlying reason for a flat-fee EV charging program.
Our friends over at Utility Dive have the scoop on one such program in the works, proposed by Duke Energy as a win-win for utility companies and their customers.
As described by Duke in a utility commission filing dated February 11, mass adoption of electric vehicles will pile enormous new loads onto the grid. That translates into additional costs for new power plants and other infrastructure, especially in regards to peak demand periods.
“If unmanaged EV charging occurs during or near the coincident peak, the utility will need to build or obtain additional capacity resources to avoid power interruptions or damage to the system. This could result in increased costs for all customers,” Duke warns.
To get a handle on the problem before it happens, Duke proposes a flat-fee pilot project that will encourage EV drivers to charge up when demand is low.
“The Companies propose a residential managed charging dynamic rate pilot that provides the customer bill simplicity and certainty, while concurrently producing advanced pricing signals and grid conditions to enable appropriate demand responses,” Duke explains.
On a system-wide basis the result will be a more efficient use of generating resources. Duke expects that all customers will benefit, not just EV drivers.
“System assets will have a higher capacity factor, meaning the system is used more efficiently, and these savings will be shared among both EV drivers and non-EV drivers,” they observe. “Additionally, because generation assets operating in non-peak times have a lower carbon intensity than peak times, particularly in the winter, any effort to shift load away from peaks will also create environmental benefits.”
As Low As $19.99 Per Month!
As proposed, the program would run for 12 months and enroll up to 200 drivers. Customers of Duke Energy Carolinas would get the $19.99 monthly flat fee deal. The Duke Energy Progress customers would pay a bit more, at $24.99.
The flat rate covers up to 800 kwH per month, which works out to about 2,000 miles per month. Doing the math, that is a pretty good deal compared to the price of gas these days.
There being no such thing as a free lunch, though, participants will need to have a home EV charging station and drive an approved vehicle. Participants can also expect a degree of monitoring and hands-on charging management along with their flat-fee EV charging.
In a partnership with BMW, Ford, GM, and Honda, the pilot will involve the Open Vehicle Grid Integration Platform, a tool developed by the automakers and the Electric Power Research Institute, dating back to 2012.
“The OVGIP, owned and operated by the OEMs…allows utilities to see charging activity, battery percentage (state of charge), or call demand response events,” Duke advises, while noting that “This creates a unique opportunity for the Companies to learn more about EV operation in North Carolina, their impact on the system, and utility-OEM partnerships, at less cost to utility customers.”
EV Charging For Everyone
As noted by Utility Dive, the 2,000-mile limit would not be a good fit for all EV drivers. In particular, gig workers who use their personal car for transportation and delivery may be out of luck. However, the program still covers a lot of ground. The average vehicle usage for US drivers worked out to about 13,500 miles per year as of 2018.
The program could also stir a hornet’s nest that is already brewing as rooftop solar owners seek to get full value from their investment without having to support other elements of the overall grid.
Nevertheless, the simplicity and predictability of a flat fee for EV charging seems appealing on its face, as does the idea of charging up conveniently at home instead of detouring over to a gas station. If you have any thoughts about that, drop a note in the comment thread.
As for the destructive baggage of the fossil energy economy, fuel supply can be a crippling issue for an invading army, and the issue is already surfacing in Ukraine. On top of social media rumors about Russian forces running out of fuel, a February 19 report on Radio Free Europe suggests that Russian troops staged in Belarus were making bank off their own supplies of diesel fuel in advance of the attack on Ukraine, and US officials have begun talking to the media about “unexpected” supply line difficulties encountered by the Russians.
“The Ukraine Crisis Media Center has several alternative means of backing the country’s efforts to resist invasion, including supporting boycotts, joining local rallies, and reaching out to your political representatives,” Vogue also advises.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: EV charging courtesy of Duke Energy.