Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) have arrived, and electric utilities soon will be able to reap the benefits. The Chevy Volt and the Nissan LEAF — first introduced in limited markets in 2010 — are now available nationwide. And most other major auto manufacturers, including Toyota, Ford and Mitsubishi, along with numerous start-ups, will be offering a PEV model of their own this year.

This new era in electric transportation is great news for consumers. The majority of PEV drivers will be able to make their daily trips on battery power alone, without having to stop at the gas station. And when PEV drivers do need to fill their tank, they will be able to recharge their car's battery at home, using a stable, domestic fuel source that currently costs about one-fourth the cost of gasoline.

In addition, PEVs will have a positive impact on the electric power industry. Beside the opportunity for new revenue, the PEVs create new channels for building customer satisfaction and relationships. And in the future, this new electric technology has the potential to connect with other emerging technologies such as smart meters, distributed generation and energy storage to give customers a broad range of energy options.

Creating a Market for PEVs

Given the many positive attributes of PEVs, Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and its member companies are working to build and strengthen the market for them. A primary goal is sustaining policymaker commitment at both the federal and state level to help PEVs become a practical transportation alternative for everyone. Congress, in particular, has a significant role to play in securing a place for electric vehicles in the country's transportation fleet.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided a tax credit of up to US$7,500 for purchasing a PEV. The tax credit helps to offset the incremental cost of these advanced vehicles so they can reach scale production. And in helping to stimulate sales of PEVs, the tax credits benefit America as well, by reducing foreign oil imports and tailpipe emissions, along with creating jobs in auto and battery manufacturing and PEV charging station infrastructure. EEI will continue to advocate for its extension, along with preserving and protecting the existing U.S. Department of Energy budget supporting electric transportation technologies.

Making a Difference

At the state and local level, EEI and its member companies are involved in supporting PEVs through many activities:

  • Working with public officials, public/private entities, automakers and other industry stakeholders to help develop local charging infrastructure

  • Developing technical standards with stakeholders for various aspects of charging infrastructure to ensure technical compatibility of electric drive vehicles, charging stations and utility equipment

  • Committing to transition more fleet vehicles to electric drive as they become available and continue to meet operational needs

  • Providing new rate options to customers that will encourage off-peak charging of PEVs

  • Updating call center training to incorporate PEV knowledge and issues

  • Developing utility websites to provide customers with the latest information and education about PEVs.

Garnering Support from the Utility Industry

Just as this is an important year for PEV market growth, 2012 is also a year when many electric utilities are developing or expanding their commitment to supporting PEVs. For those electric utilities that are just beginning to promote PEVs, EEI has produced a free booklet to help, “Utility Guide to PEV Readiness.” The EEI guide covers the topics that every utility will need to address to make sure PEVs get off to a fast start in their service area: how to get up to speed, how to prepare customers, how to identify which stakeholders to involve and how to prepare for the charging experience.

In the guide, utilities will learn about relevant issues, benefit from the advice and expertise of industry leaders, such as the Electric Power Research Institute and the Electric Drive Transportation Association, and discover the lessons learned by the EEI member companies whose service areas were among the first to get the new PEVs.

The PEVs on the road today are symbolic of the role electricity plays in powering progress. From iPads to the Internet, electricity continues to make possible the technologies that enable our world and our lives to be more productive and more satisfying. In getting the marketplace ready for the new cars, the electric utility industry is now setting the stage for electricity to power even greater progress in the 21st century.


Rick Tempkin (rtempkin@eei.org) is the executive director of retail services for the Edison Electric Institute. For more information on the electric power industry's support for PEVs, visit www.eei.org.

To download the free Utility Guide to PEV Readiness, please visit www.eei.org/ourissues/EnergyEfficiency/Documents/EVReadinessGuide_web_final.pdf.