Xcel Energy to Bring Advanced Smart Charging to Colorado

Credit: Jessica Russo, NRDC

Xcel Energy is pushing the needle forward for smart charging services in Colorado with its recently submitted “Charging Perks” pilot program. In collaboration with four automakers—BMW, Ford, General Motors, and Honda—this pilot will demonstrate how to put customer preferences at the center of a smart charging program and how use cars to support the electric grid.

Smart charging can lower not only the cost of ownership for EV drivers, but also the cost of transitioning to a zero emission grid. But you need drivers willing to let their cars be charged when it’s most beneficial to the grid, drivers who can’t have their transportation needs compromised. Accordingly, Xcel Energy plans to analyze EV driver charging behavior and what motivates EV drivers to shift their charging load so they can tailor incentives which best fit their customers’ needs. To do this, two smart charging implementations will be evaluated:

  1. Applying a traditional time-of-use rate where EV drivers can independently manage their charging
  2. Directly managing EV charging in collaboration with four automakers

While many time-of use rate programs have proven successful in reducing both grid cost and total cost of ownership, there is limited research comparing the added value of directly controlling charging.  For this direct control application, Xcel Energy will communicate directly with cars to shift load to optimum periods, during off-peak or high renewable generation times. This type of smart control can potentially reduce system capital and operating cost, while providing opportunities for residential EV customers to reduce their EV fuel costs.

Credit: EPRI

To scale up advanced charging programs, it is vital that EV charging be implemented with low operational costs as well as managing large data and communication from variety of different vehicle types. Electric Power Research Institutes’ Open Vehicle Grid Integration Platform (OVGIP) addresses both of these issues by allowing seamless two-way communication between EVs and the grid operator to manage EV load, incorporating both the drivers’ needs as well as open access for all vehicle types. While this platform has been implemented in other utility pilot programs, they often only use one automaker or do not include advanced charging. The Charging Perks Pilot will showcase the full potential of this platform by using multiple car manufacturers as well as advanced charging.  By testing the value of smart charging services, Xcel Energy will bring a key smart charging technology closer to market.

Finally, drivers need to know that their car will be charged up when they need to drive somewhere.  The Charging Perks Pilot is centered around consumer experience and focuses on educating the customer on financial and environmental benefits of utilizing residential EVs to provide smart grid services.  This will be done through targeted rate and technology education to new and existing EV drivers in the Xcel territory.

By leveraging the smarts embedded in the cars and the Open Vehicle Grid Integration Platform, this pilot will test a smart charging model that could scale up and provide benefits to drivers and utility customers well beyond Colorado.

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