An increasing number of North American utilities are implementing or considering programs to prepare for the inevitable rise in electric vehicle use, new Chartwell survey data reveals.

Utilities have discovered they can facilitate economic growth, encourage energy efficiency and promote the smart grid through electric vehicle (EV) programs, says Chartwell's latest report, Electric Vehicles and the Smart Grid. Customers, who are increasingly aware of electric vehicles, according to the Chartwell report, favorably associate EVs with the smart grid. Demand response programs, including time-of-use (TOU) rates, are almost a necessity for transformers to handle the extra load.

Many estimates count almost 1 million EVs on America's roads by 2015.

"The technology and infrastructure are starting to be put in place for electric vehicles to extend their reach beyond the early adopters," Chartwell research analyst Darren Epps said. "This provides a wonderful opportunity for utilities to transform their business model and provide another level of service, fuel economic growth and better sustain the grid through education.

"The EV could be the perfect marketing tool for the smart grid and TOU rates."

Many issues remain, however, as utilities work to prepare for the growth of EVs . These include metering and connection concerns. Chartwell's report also offers a state of the EV industry, details of various utility EV rate structures, and case studies that reveal how EVs will impact utilities.