Dominion Virginia Power is moving forward with an electric vehicle recharging pilot program following the approval of the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The pilot is designed to test whether electric vehicle owners will choose to recharge their vehicles during off-peak hours – typically overnight – in exchange for lower electricity costs.

The SCC gave its approval on July 11. Interested customers will be able to sign up for the pilot program beginning Oct. 3. The company intends to partner with car dealerships and charger installation vendors to build customer awareness.

Based on rates effective Oct. 3, customers in the pilot could pay as little as 41 cents to charge an electric vehicle (EV) overnight with enough electricity for a typical commute of 40 miles. This compares to a cost of up to 94 cents when using the standard residential electric rate.

Virginia has been identified by industry experts as potentially one of the hottest markets for plug-in electric vehicles based on the state's relatively large number of first-generation hybrid vehicles. Dominion believes there could be 86,000 electric vehicles in the state – equal to 5 percent of all vehicle sales – by 2020. If charged on peak, these vehicles could lead to an increase in the amount of peak-demand electricity that the company must supply that year by about 270 megawatts, which is the equivalent of powering 67,500 homes.

"We believe many of our customers will purchase electric vehicles and they will recharge them at home," said Kenneth D. Barker, vice president of Customer Solutions and Energy Conservation. "This pilot program will allow us to gauge the impact of EVs on our system, from the power station to the house."

The two experimental rate options as a part of the pilot are:

  • Electric Vehicle only – This option is for charging the electric vehicle only. The company estimates that it would cost about 43 cents on this rate to charge an electric vehicle overnight with enough electricity for a typical 40-mile commute.

Customers electing the electric vehicle-only rate option will have a second meter installed to measure the energy use specific to recharging the vehicle.

  • Whole House – This option allows customers to take advantage of lower prices for many household activities. The pricing would change during the day to encourage the off-peak charging of electric vehicles and use of other household appliances such as the dishwasher and clothes dryer. The company estimates that it would cost between 41 cents and 49 cents on this rate to charge an electric vehicle overnight with enough electricity for the daily commute.

Each rate option would be limited to 750 participants who would have to stay enrolled for at least one year. The pilot will terminate Nov. 30, 2014. The company will submit an annual report to the commission that will detail the number of program participants, an assessment of the feasibility and implications on the public interest of continuing the program, and any other relevant information.