Oregon is one of 15 states that have Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) regulations in place, which targets 30% ZEV sales by 2030. Portland General Electric (PGE) has been leading the charge to help expand electric vehicle (EV) adoption in Oregon. Since 2018, Opinion Dynamics has been working with PGE to evaluate a coordinated set of pilot programs aimed at encouraging greater electrification of the transportation sector in its service territory. Two primary goals of the pilot programs are to (1) increase customer adoption of EVs and (2) provide its customers with reliable charging in its service territory by installing  L2 and Direct Current Fast Chargers at charging plazas known as Electric Avenues.

One target group for these pilot activities is ride share drivers also referred to as Transportation Network Company (TNC) drivers. To better serve the needs of TNC drivers, PGE is providing outreach to TNC drivers to encourage EV adoption, including education of the benefits of driving EVs. In 2019, PGE and a TNC company sponsored a rideshare community event and information session in Downtown Portland. The event included a ride-and-drive session that allowed interested TNC drivers to test drive EVs and learn more about the technology from experts. In addition to education efforts, PGE is working with a TNC company to provide TNC-subsidized charging subscriptions at PGE’s Electric Avenue charging sites. The subscription provides TNC drivers with unlimited use of Level 2 and Direct Current Fast Chargers at PGE’s Electric Avenues.

Over the course of 2019-2020, Opinion Dynamics conducted research to better understand the motivating factors for TNC drivers to purchase an EV as well as charging characteristics for existing TNC drivers who own EVs. As part of this analysis, Opinion Dynamics conducted intercept surveys at the 2019 event with TNC drivers who completed a ride-and-drive to understand the effectiveness of the ride-and-drive on intention to purchase as well as an online asynchronous focus group with TNC drivers who were interested in purchasing an EV to better understand barriers they face. Finally, a utilization analysis of PGE’s Electric Avenues was performed to determine how TNC drivers are using chargers to determine the effectiveness of a peak pricing surcharge. Key findings from each of these three research activities are described in more detail below:

Ride-and-Drive Event: The ride-and-drive events appear to increase attendees’ likelihood of purchasing or leasing an EV in the next five years, especially among TNC drivers. We also found that the ride-and-drive was effective in increasing purchase intent, as about two-thirds of TNC drivers surveyed indicated the ride-and-drive event increased their likelihood of purchasing or leasing an EV “a great deal.”

TNC Focus Group: TNC focus group participants estimated they could save between $400 and $625 in monthly maintenance and fuel costs by switching to an EV and using the Electric Avenue unlimited charging subscription. Focus group participants cited upfront vehicle cost as well as qualifying for low-interest financing are key barriers to purchasing EVs. Further, we found that all participants preferred an unlimited monthly charging subscription over pricing per session, as per-session charging rates were complicated to budget and not practical for the amount of charging needed.

Electric Avenue Utilization Analysis: Our Electric Avenue utilization analysis showed that TNC subscribers make up the smallest share of users but have the highest per customer energy consumption in most months.  Specifically, TNC subscribers consume 1.5 times more energy each month than monthly subscribers, and 2.9 times more than non-subscribers. We also found that a $0.19/kWh surcharge during PGE’s peak system hours (3:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.) was highly effective at shifting charging away from system peak load periods, especially for TNC subscribers.

TNC drivers  face unique barriers, have distinct charging needs, and are a likely growing segment as economies begin to open again and on-demand delivery services increase in popularity. This research provided PGE with insights into how to better serve TNC drivers and plan for how TNC driver charging behaviors may impact its distribution system. Evaluation findings show that financial assistance targeted to high-usage TNC drivers may reduce the barriers to purchasing EVs and that utilities can work with TNCs to offer subscription-based charging, which provides drivers with access to reliable charging infrastructure and stable fuel costs to encourage EV adoption. Findings also indicate that TNC drivers use significantly more energy when compared to other groups. However, utilities can leverage pricing models to reduce demand during critical peak periods while also encouraging high-usage customers to increase overall utilization of public charging infrastructure. Opinion Dynamics will conduct additional research through 2023 to further determine how utilities can best serve TNC drivers.