Opinion Dynamics conducted a field test in the summer of 2021 to test EV charging controls in Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) service territory – currently the largest EV market in the US. We recruited 212 EV owners and called 10 EV DR events. After the field test, we followed up with a select group of participants and found that over half were unaware PG&E along with their vendor partners had called DR events that curtailed their charging. The DR events had very little, if any impacts on participants. Very few participants opted out of events, and all interviewed customers reported they would participate in a program like the study if it were offered in the future.

Despite these positive outcomes, there remain several barriers that pose risks to widescale EV owner acceptance of managed charging.  Our survey of 3,000 EV owners in PG&E service territory found that:

Not Aware

Most EV owners have never heard of EV DR programs. When provided with a definition of a managed charging (EV Demand Response) program, only 24% of PG&E EV owners said they had heard of this type of program.

Advantages

EV owners familiar with EV DR programs most frequently associated them with financial and grid reliability advantages.

Not top of mind

Most EV owners (66%) were not able to identify any unaided benefits associated with allowing PG&E to adjust their EV charging.

 

A Misperception

Some respondents shared the misperception that managed charging can be used to prevent Public Power Safety Shutoffs PSPS (7%).

Respondents were mostly willing to allow PG&E to adjust their charging to ensure:

 

%

The 39% of EV owners who have concerns about allowing PG&E to adjust their charging are most concerned about giving up control of their EV charging and specifically that their car will not be charged by the time they need to use it – which includes concerns around being inconvenienced and not feeling in control of when they can charge.

EV owners also share the misperception that a managed charging program may increase the cost for them to charge their car or that the program incentives would not offset the increased costs to charge.

We don’t need EV drivers to memorize facts about the electricity grid. However…

Helping EV drivers understand that (1) the amount of clean energy available to charge their car varies over the course of the day, (2) they can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by charging when clean electricity is most plentiful, and (3) allowing their utility to manage their charging also provides another pathway to help maximize the use of clean energy could be a beneficial focus for future customer outreach efforts focused on managed charging. Helping EV owners understand that if they participate in a managed charging program their EV can still be ready when they need it, could also be effective recruitment messaging.

Dive Deeper into the data
and findings

Utilities face unique challenges, and our staff at Opinion Dynamics are always looking for unique ways to tackle these challenges and be at the forefront of problem-solving solutions. Our resident experts, Hilary Polis and Jordan Folks offer deeper insight with their companion pieces spotlighted below. The full report is also available via PDF download.

Article

You already have my thermostat, now you want my car too? By Hilary Polis

Presentation

Designing EV DR Incentives. Presentation by Jordan Folks