EV Managed Charging

by Jordan Folks and Hilary Polis | Podcast

Contact Information

Hilary Polis: hpolis@opiniondynamics.com | Jordan Folks: jfolks@opiniondynamics.com  |  Have a topic you’re interested in? Let us know! info@opiniondynamics.com

Dive deeper into EV ADR and Managed Charging

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.


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


Designing EV DR Incentives. Presentation by Jordan Folks

Companion Post

Insights Highlighted: A dynamic look at EV managed charging and grid resource potential

Companion Post

Insights Highlighted: A dynamic look at customers’ perceptions of EV managed charging


Jordan Folks, Associate Director:  Hey everyone, this is Jordan Folks with Hillary Polis, we’re going to talk about a topic that’s really hitting the industry right now managed charging of electric vehicles. So, Hillary, this is kind of a newer concept. And I think a lot of utilities and people in the industry are still kind of wrapping their head around it. Maybe if you could just start us off, right off the bat, what is managed charging?

Hilary Polis, Associate Director, Transportation Electrification: Thanks, Jordan! So, managed charging includes a range of different terms. I know that terminology is thrown a lot in our industry, but it generally refers to our control of EV charging to support the grid. So, this could include ramping up or ramping down, charging of individual EVs or multiple EVs, whether that ramping up or ramping down is done at the charger, at the EV level or elsewhere. Under this managed charging umbrella, we have things like Time of Use (TOU) rates or EV rates. And we also have other types of interventions like Demand Response (DR) and direct load control.

JF: Oh, wow. So, there’s a lot of different ways we can kind of tackle this issue. But I’m a little confused about why this matters right now. You know, I’m hearing things like 2%, 4% of sales are EVs right now, it seems like it’s a pretty niche technology. Is there really enough out there to care about it? Why are we focusing on this right now?

HP: Well, Jordan, I know that you’re excited to get your new Subaru® EV and you’re certainly not the only one. We’re seeing a really exciting time right now, with just this rapidly growing interest in EVs and associated adoption of passenger EVs. So, if EV adoption grows exponentially, which it’s kind of projected to do, it’s going to bring huge opportunities for the grid, because that means we have lots of batteries kind of distributed around utility service territories. But at the same time, it’s also a huge concern if this growth is not managed properly, because it brings about risks to our electricity system, specifically the distribution system. I think, when we think about this issue, one factor that is really important for us to consider is customer attitudes and behavior around their charging. So, EV driver willingness to shift their charging to when their grid needs it the most is really going to impact our ability to leverage EVs as a grid resource.

JF: Well, as a demand response nerd, I’m really excited about the opportunities here. And so maybe we could use this as an opportunity to talk about a really cool study we recently did for PG&E, as I understand it, PG&E is interested in kind of harnessing the power of electric vehicles through some of the means that you mentioned, as part of their automated demand response portfolio. And we recently conducted a study to support that effort, do you think maybe you could take a second to kind of walk us through the high-level overview of the study, and then we can dive into some specific components after that?

HP: Great. Yeah, I’m happy to Jordan. And I can share more about the study kind of throughout our discussion. But basically, what happened is that PG&E has an automated Demand Response Program, and they were interested in adding new technologies to this program, it had typically been smart thermostats. So back in 2019, we identified that EV charging controls would be a great fit for this program. However, at that time, this type of technology had not been widely deployed and other service territories. And so PG&E really wanted to get more information about the performance of these technologies and their opportunities to support the grid. So, we conducted a study for them last year, so the study range from 2020 to 2021. And the goal was really to understand opportunities to leverage residential EV demand response technologies. So, we started with a ‘gather and select’ phase, where we kind of looked at the entire landscape of EV charging control technologies out there. And then we vetted these technologies using some criteria that we developed and identified technologies that were appropriate to deploy in PG&E service territory. So, we use criteria like number of EVs available to control things like that. We also talk to EV manage charging program managers from other utilities across the country to really understand best practices for deploying these types of programs. From there, we actually deployed a technology field test, we worked with ENEL X® and ChargePoint®, who controlled charging via the charger directly. And then Geotab®, who actually leveraged vehicle telematics to control EV charging. Vehicle telematics is kind of your onboard system that provides diagnostic information, navigation information, other information about the car, and we’re seeing that lots of third parties are actually able to leverage this telematics system to control EV charging, and that’s kind of a novel thing. So, we worked with Geotab® to use that approach. And we actually called 10 DR events with the EVs enrolled in our study last summer, we looked at a range of different time periods, and we assessed the load impacts for each DR event. We also followed up with participants to really understand their experience with the field tests. So, through this field test, we were able to understand that yes, this technology works, you can control EV charging, both through the vehicle telematics and through the charger directly. And the study had minimal impact on our participants. But we had broader questions about how can you scale this type of technology to the broader group of EV owners and PG&E service territory. So, we actually conducted a survey of 3000 EV owners, we asked them about their preferences for upgrading to a smart level 2 charger or enrolling in an EV DR program. We also tried to understand their perceptions about managed charging programs. We did a large analysis where we had data from 70,000, EV owners in PG&E service territory, and we’re actually able to get their AMI data and disaggregate it to identify their EV charging patterns. And then lastly, we also synthesized results across these different efforts to identify key considerations and best practices that can help inform future managed charging program designs.

JF: Wow, that is quite a lot there. So, let’s try to dive into a few pieces and kind of get into the weeds on some of these things. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to start with the various approaches to manage charging. You mentioned that we could look at telematics or we could, uhh… I guess that’s through the vehicle, or we could control the charger itself, like a Juice Box® charger, for example. So, you said they both worked, but is there a clear winner here? Or maybe you could speak to the pros and cons of either type?

HP: Great, great. Thanks, Jordan. Yeah, so I think that this is a really hot question in the industry right now, should we go with telematics or should we control the charger directly. And so, for this study, we kind of looked at some of the pros and cons of each approach. I think one of the exciting things about telematics is that you don’t need to have any specific charger to participate in a program via telematics. So you don’t need to have that Wi-Fi-connected smart level 2 charger that can be more expensive, you could actually participate in a program with your level 1 charger, or your non-networked level 2 charger. And so, what this means is that you can potentially have greater reach if you offer a program with telematics. It also means that your customers aren’t going to need to pay for an upgrade to a smart level 2 charger if they don’t choose to do so. Think another interesting thing about vehicle telematics is that on-board telematics system, it transmits a lot of different types of data that you can’t get directly from the charger. So, you can get information about the vehicle’s state of charge, which is kind of more granular information about what the load impact you would expect to see from that individual vehicle. You can also get more information about the latitude and longitude of the vehicle. So, you can see, is this person charging at home? Are they charging away from home? And that’s valuable information to utilities who are trying to figure out the distribution system impacts of EV charging. And that gets to the next point that, all of a sudden, if you’re using telematics your EVs become a mobile resource, right, so you could potentially curtail charging in other places besides the home. And that brings about a whole nother set of considerations. Right. So, when we were running this field test, we saw that some of our customers or our participants were on a road trip up in Portland outside of PG&E service territory, we had to make decisions about what do you do in these situations? And then the last thing is, I think that it’s pretty interesting with telematics, a lot is still being worked out with the automakers, right. And so automakers are essentially cooperating with third parties to be able to manage EV charging. But I think there’s a lot to still be figured out in this space in terms of the role of the automaker and the role of the third party when we’re thinking about controlling the EVs via the charger directly. So, as I mentioned, customer has to purchase their smart level 2 charter to be able to participate in the program. The EVs become a stationary resource, so there’s less to think about in terms of mobility and controlling EVs while they move about. And historically, we’ve also seen that these EV chargers work via Wi-Fi right, so they can be impacted by issues with Wi-Fi. Conversely, with telematics, those tend to operate over cellular networks.

JF: So, it seems like neither is a silver bullet or kiss of death that there’s pros and cons on either side. If a utility was to pursue using both in tandem, is that difficult from an implementation perspective to have to have two different approaches for the same kind of two different means to an end?

HP: Yeah, so I think, you know, this is a very fast-moving space. And when we started this study, there’s a huge open question about, you know, which approach was better. And now, I think that recommendation that we’re seeing in the industry is to, to work with everyone, collaborate, and try to get as many customers into managed charging programs. So that means working directly with the providers that sell the chargers. And it means working with telematics providers as well. And I think that we’re just we’re gonna continue to see evolution in this space, there’s a lot of exciting companies that are here to work in the space and so I think this will continue to evolve over time.

JF: Okay, so we’ve got the technology, there’s a few different ways to go about it. And it seems to work. But this is an interesting value proposition for a customer. Because we know that range anxiety is a big hurdle for people to make that leap to the first electric vehicle. And so it seems that this would only exacerbate range anxiety, if all of a sudden now I can’t even guarantee that when I plug it in, in my garage, that it’s actually going to charge if my utility can control it. So, our customer survey actually looked at some of these customer-perceived barriers. Maybe you could talk about, what did we learn from that survey? And what are the messages that utilities need to consider to actually get people on board with this type of charging program?

HP: Yeah, so I think when we did this study with PG&E, we kind of saw the entire customer experience. So, we had that survey of 3000, EV owners that had not participated in our study. And then we had people that were actually participating in our study, what we’re seeing is that most EV owners have never heard of managed charging programs, only 24% of PG&E owners said they had ever heard of this type of program before. Even though this group tends to be the early adopters, the more energy-savvy, they don’t know that this exists, right. And so then, when you describe it to them and ask them their opinions about this type of program, they have a lot of concerns. I think the main concern is that they’re not willing to give up control of their charging. And the reason for this is that they’re concerned that their EV is not going to be fully charged when needed. They don’t like the idea of allowing someone else to have control over their charger, that ‘Big Brother is watching’ type concern. And then they’re also you know, they have their set charging schedules, and they’re concerned about disruptions to their usual charging schedule. This is all understandable, right? When you think about an EV is not a thermostat. You need it to escape from emergency situations, you need it to go visit your elderly grandmother when she needs something. It’s an important resource for you. And so people are very sensitive about how we’re using their EV, and wanting to make sure that they’re going to be able to get to where they need to go, especially in emergency situations.

JF: I know that we were talking about the survey here, but I’m curious to what about the field test? Did we have any situations like that where someone wasn’t able to go save their grandma because the managed charging program had curtailed their charging?

HP: No, not at all, in fact, so when we actually have people participating in the program, most people didn’t even know that we were curtailing their charging, they didn’t realize that their charging had been turned off. We did not receive any complaints from the 200 customers that participated. We saw a few one-off incidents where customers overrode our events, or they accidentally reset their charging schedule, because they thought that there was user-error or some sort of technical issue with their charging. But overall, I think that this type of DR could be a really great customer experience if you find times to curtail EV charging or charge vehicles at times that don’t bother customers.

JF: Right. And when we get a second, when we get there, I’d love to talk about how we influence people to actually do that. Because, you know, I think we’re talking about messaging right now. But you know, what’s in it for them? So, okay, we’ve learned that there are some customer perceived barriers there, they think this could be a problem. But our field tests have shown, it’s actually going to be okay, you’re still gonna be able to drive to the grocery store or whatever, even if you’re participating in an instruction program. So, what were some of the kind of messaging approaches that might be successful to cultivate participation? Did we learn anything about that? Like what actually might motivate them outside of an incentive? Like, are there any types of themes that really struck you in that regard?

HP: Yup, and I would love to do more research on this. I would love to test different messages. But I think overall, what we’re seeing is that customers are willing to participate in a managed charging program if they get financial benefits. They’re also responsive to that messaging of wanting to help support grid reliability. Very few customers mentioned environmental benefits and so I think that that’s a potential missed opportunity because these are EV early adopters, they do care about the environment. Generally, I think we need more marketing, education and outreach and we need it from the time customers are considering purchasing an EV. So it needs to come sooner, it’d be great if the automakers got in on this, the dealers help customers understand that this is an option for them, and that there are benefits. And those benefits include financial benefits, they include grid reliability benefits, and they include environmental benefits. It can be kind of hard to explain why there are benefits- environmental benefits associated with this. But I think if we could generally help EV drivers understand that the amount of clean energy available to charge their car varies throughout the course of the day and that they can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by charging when more clean energy is available. And then if they allow their utility to manage their charging, that provides a pathway to help maximize the use of clean energy on the grid. That type of story or messaging, I think could resonate with EV owners. We also need to help these EV owners understand that if they participate in a managed charging program, it does not mean that their car won’t be charged when they need it. There are ways to incorporate customer needs into managed charging programs and address these misperceptions.

JF: I mean, I’m definitely a biased source, but that motivates me for sure. I’m thinking about that environmental impact. Okay, so we’ve learned about the technology. We’ve learned a little bit about customer perceptions, for those that have not, you know, been involved in these programs to date. But we haven’t really talked about, you know, what’s really going to get them on the hook. So maybe this would be a good chance to talk about the incentive piece of the study.

HP: Yeah, Jordan, I know that you worked on the piece of study that specifically looked at incentive designs and customer preferences for receiving a rebate to upgrade their charger or enroll in a managed charging program directly and be great if you could share a little bit more about what we learned here.

JF: Yeah, so it seems we did this, like, literature review, right- to see what approaches are different utilities taking in terms of the incentive and program design. And it seems that that literature review found two primary pathways to encouraging participation in these programs. One is providing a rebate for the charger, that and enabling like Wi-Fi connected charger that they could then control or just offering a cash type incentive like a bill credit or Visa® gift card or something for the willingness to participate in a managed charging program. So what we wanted to do was test which of those two like what kind of dollar amount is associated with either of those two approaches that can maximize participation. So, we use this really cool experimental method called conjoint; and I’m not going to get into the details of that, but basically, what it does is allows us to kind of figure out what is the sweet spot where we can maximize participation while minimizing the incentive amount. And we found that, from what we tested using reasonable incentive amounts, like maybe a $300 maximum incentive or something like that, you can get about 50%, about a little less than half of customers interested in a program design that offers them either a $50 enrollment incentive for those that already have a smart level 2 charger at home or of those that have an EV but don’t have a smart level 2 charger, we could also get about half of them to participate in a program if we offered them a $300 incentive to upgrade their hardware. But when we look at the study as a whole, we’ve now learned that you don’t have to have a smart level 2 charger to participate. We’ve learned that telematics are effective as well. And we also learned in our survey that about 1/3 of PG&E EV owning customers have a level 1, about 1/3 have a level 2 that does not connect to the internet. And about another third have a smart level 2 that connects the internet. So, we don’t need to limit ourselves to a certain piece of the market, those that have the EV or getting an EV but don’t yet have a smart level 2, nor do we need to be limited to only those that already have a smart level 2, with harnessing both telematics and chargers, we can really hit everyone and everyone can be involved in these kinds of programs. And so, what this study suggests is that a one-time $50 enrollment incentive is a very cost-effective way to get a significant proportion of the population interested in this type of program, which is, you know what, like 1/6 of the amount of the incentive amount needed to encourage people to actually upgrade to a Wi-Fi-connected charger. And I encourage people to check out the report, which is available on the Opinion Dynamics website, you can see how these incentive offers don’t scale. Like, that’s the beauty of conjoint. Doubling the incentive does not necessarily double interest. I think that we see like a 5% gain or something like that if we double that one-time enrollment incentive. And so, I think that the takeaway from this study is, we don’t need to throw a crazy amount of money, kind of a standard DR enrollment incentive seems to be sufficient to encourage people to participate. And this is amongst people that don’t really know much about these programs, yet we kind of had to educate them through the survey. So, if we can then harness from effective messaging, marketing and outreach campaigns, you know, who knows what the ceiling is, especially if like we found on the field test, that there’s really minimal to no impact to lifestyle with these types of programs. So, as you were saying there is this anticipated EV sales boom. I think I saw recently with the, uh, gas crises that the Google® searches for electric vehicles, is like, through the roof compared to any historic search results on that. So, as more EVs come online, how can managed charging really mitigate the grid impacts there? Is there anything from the study that you can kind of dive into there? You know you said that managed charging technology, approaches to the managed charging work, but what are impacts? What did we learn in terms of the actual potential there?

HP: Yeah, so I think when we think about the resource potential of EVs, it’s pretty different in nature than our typical DR Resource, right? It’s different than our smart thermostat or other things that we might deploy for demand response. And Jordan, I know that you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about demand response. Do you wanna talk a little bit about how this resource is different?

JF: Yeah. I mean, for one it, water heaters can’t drive off to go to the grocery store, right? So, it’s mobile and two, it’s probably a lot less predictable in terms of the load shape profile, right? Like I would imagine that water heaters and furnaces and so on and so forth have a fairly uniform load shape from household the household, right. But electric vehicle charging patterns could be way different and they’re not as temperature-dependent, uh, as something like HVAC is. So, although they’re unique in terms of when and how they’re used, and also the demand is really high. They are yet another technology that can be controlled via price signals via direct load control. So, I think that, although it’s a unique scenario, we can kind of borrow from the historical lessons learned in the demand response world and apply it to this new source of major demand that just doesn’t meet the parameters of the things that we’ve historically controlled like thermostats or air conditioner switches or water heaters.

HP: Yeah. And I wanna dig a little bit more into one thing that you said, and that’s the predictability of charging patterns as part of the study, we had AMI data for 70,000 PG&E EV owners. And keep in mind that PG&E has the most EV owners out of any service territory in the US. And we were able to group EV chargers or EV owners into kind of common charging patterns. I would definitely encourage you to look at the graphs in the report that visually show what I’m describing, but we found these different clusters of customers, seven different clusters. And what this is telling us is that about 50% of PG&E EV owners have very unpredictable or low-level charging patterns that are hard to model. Uh, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna stay that way forever as people get on programs or on rates, or they adopt higher power charging infrastructure, but we do see that segment, that’s almost half of EV owners that is difficult to model and predict. We also see 28% of PG&E EV owners are overnight chargers. And this makes sense, PG&E has an EV rate that motivates customers to charge overnight. Most of these customers are on the overnight EV rate and they’re they’re following that price signal. And then we also see that over 20% of PG&E EV owners are charging during PG&E’s peak period of 4 to 9 PM. And so those are the customers that we’re gonna wanna target for any type of DR type program. But I think overall, what was interesting about this study is that it was one of the first to blend this customer and grid technical perspectives together to really understand the full story of charging patterns in PG&E service territory. So, when we took a look at this, we could see that there’s definitely these huge spikes overnight, and there’s some resource potential during that 4 to 9 period.  And then virtually almost no one is charging during the middle of the day. So we called DR events overnight for our field test and those events effectively curtailed load. So, we’re seeing a lot of peaks overnight, these large spikes, and these can actually cause concern for our distribution system. So essentially the Time of Use or EV rates are working so well that everyone’s starting to charge at the same time. And if you have clusters of EV owners that charge at the same place and the same time, it could potentially overwhelm the distribution system in the future. So, I think in the future, we’re gonna need utilities to think about combinations of both indirect, and direct load control. We’re chasing, moving targets. We use our EV rates and then everyone starts charging at the same time. And then we have an issue, right? So, you use your indirect load control or your Time of Use rate to shift people off-peak. And then I think you need a direct load control to smooth out the spikes that you have when you’ve moved people or motivated people to all charge at the same time. And that I think is the future of managed charging. I think we need really dynamic, direct load control programs that can, uh, shift people to multiple different points throughout the day. I think in PG&E service territory, it would be really great if we had programs that could charge vehicles during the middle of the day when there’s lots of sun shining. And I know that Silicon Valley Clean Energy is starting to do this where, um, they can actually accept information or signals about the marginal greenhouse gas emissions associated with our electricity supply on a granular basis and use that to manage EV charging. I think that’s a pretty innovative approach. We’re also seeing other types of managed charging programs that can allow customers to kind of specify windows when they’d be willing to allow their utility to control their EV charging. And then the utility would also intake other or use other types of signals, like a day ahead price signal, to kind of figure out the right window for charging for each individual vehicle. So I’m excited. I think we’re seeing a lot of really cool approaches that can help utilities chase this moving target of trying to mitigate the timer peak issues that we have when customers are charging at the same time because of Time of Use rates.

JF: Yeah. I think that moving target piece is, is a really important aspect of this approach, right? Because you know, a rate is not something that you just deploy overnight. You’ve gotta go through the, the econometrics of the rate development and the stakeholder meetings, and then the rate case. And that’s a, you know, multi-year long process perhaps. But manage charging, you can, if you, all of a sudden, we need to deploy the signal at night, we can do it, right. And we don’t have to go through an entire new program design- it’s agile, and we can, um, really tackle issues in real-time without all these regulatory hurdles, once we’ve got the program in place. And so, it seems to go really hand in hand with, um, rates in that regard. And, you know, if we did get through the rate case and we now have real-time pricing, you can also help customers save on energy bills by just sending a signal and stopping the charging during hours that are particularly high in a real-time pricing scenario. So I think that the future is really bright for managed charging. And I think that maybe as we close out, what’s on the horizon, like what’s next? What do you wanna see in this space? What do you think is left to be answered?

HP: Yeah, I’ll just go straight to what I think everyone’s talking about right now, which is V2G or bidirectional charging. Um, I think it’s been getting a lot of buzz in the industry lately and there’s some misperceptions about it. So I think to level set, we have this big umbrella of vehicle/grid integration (VGI). And under that we have V1G, which includes managed charging, direct load control, Time of Use rates, et cetera, EV TOU rates, I should say. And then also under this VGI umbrella, we also have B2X. It refers to the dispatch of the electric vehicle battery back to the grid… the home. B2X, I should say, is in really kind of a nascent state right now. A lot of the motivation behind it actually came up about 10 years ago after the Japanese tsunami and Nissan® started making Leafs that were B2G (battery to grid) capable as a resiliency resource and then we didn’t see a lot happen for a while. And I think that there’s been some hesitancy on the part of the automakers because they’re unsure how this is going to impact vehicle warranties. And we’re also seeing utilities really wanting to have some certainty around regulation, things like that before moving forward. I think another thing is that you need three components to do B2G. So, you need actual software that can manage everything. You need a bidirectional charger and you need a car that’s B2G capable. And that bidirectional charging/charger piece has really been missing from the market. So those chargers need to be regulated, they need to be certified, and there just haven’t been very many commercially available bidirectional chargers on the market, especially in the residential context. And we’re starting to see some new entrants that are coming to market with their residential V2G certified chargers. And so, I think that that’s gonna have an impact. We’re also seeing lots of interest in using vehicle-to-home for resiliency purposes. So I’m really excited to see that PG&E has announced that they’ll be doing several different pilots. So they’re working with Ford® and GM® to do vehicle-to-home pilots. And then they also have another set of B2G pilots that include microgrids, residential, and commercial B2G pilots as well. I think people will be eagerly watching PG&E because these are such innovative pilots. And then I think that there’s just also a growing interest in using V2X, because it can help balance the integration of EVs it does have that extra benefit to it that it can store energy versus managed charging can’t right. And so, um, there’s potential arbitrage opportunities. There’s opportunities to help customers save money on their charging when they’re using V2H or V2G. So, there’s definitely some use cases there, but as I said, this is still a pretty nascent technology. And I think sometimes people get really excited about it really, really ahead of it, think that it’s further along than it is, and there’s a lot that we can still be doing with V1G and managed charging right now.

JF: Well, it’s certainly an exciting time to be involved in this space and I’m so happy I get to share it with you. So if any of our listeners have any other questions, um, please feel free to reach out to Hillary and she can take all the EV questions you might have. And, if you have any other show ideas for the future, please reach out. We’d love to hear what everyone’s thinking about and until next time we’ll see you all later.

HP: Thanks.