Electric vehicles (EVs) are the greatest strategic opportunity for utilities since the lightbulb. As I explain in The $100B Prize: Why EVs Are the Opportunity of the Century for Utilities—the first installment of my recent five-part series in Utility Dive—EVs could increase annual US electric utility revenues by 25 percent, or roughly $100 billion, while putting downward pressure on rates. This shift could save drivers $300 billion a year and substantially reduce carbon emissions. That’s a Grand Prix prize for an industry suffering from flat revenues and rising costs.

And fortunately, a whole slew of current policy and market conditions are creating an ideal environment for EVs to thrive. But the opportunity could be fleeting. In part two of the series (Why the Time for Utilities to Promote EVs Is Now—and Why the Moment Could Quickly Fade), I caution that the window for propelling EVs into mass-market acceptance could close if utilities don’t act soon. Utilities can consider a variety of tactics as they seize this opportunity; we describe many of them in our report How Utilities Are Taking Charge of Electric Vehicle Adoption.

Icon of a blue electric vehicle

Driving my Chevrolet Volt is more fun than skiing through deep powder on a bluebird day in Colorado’s high country. Well, maybe not that fun. But it’s definitely the best ride I’ve ever had. All the EV drivers I know feel the same way. The problem is, most consumers barely know these cars exist. As the third installment (Got EVs? Why Utilities Should Promote Electric Vehicles to Consumers) details, utilities are starting to do more to boost public awareness of electric cars and their many benefits through creative advertising and other means.

Utilities might believe that if they can raise consumer interest in EVs, they can leave the rest to the auto industry. Not so. Automakers are conflicted about EVs, whose growth cannibalizes the market for petroleum-fueled vehicles. For this and other reasons, car dealers do a lousy job of selling electric vehicles.

As I document in How Utilities Can Help Auto Companies Sell EVs—the fourth part of the series—there are several approaches to educate and motivate auto dealers to sell more EVs. And the group purchase model discussed in the final installment (How Group Purchasing Programs Can Supercharge EV Sales) is proving wildly successful, boosting EV sales four- to tenfold in some communities.

If you have or want to create programs to boost EV adoption, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us an email or leave a comment below. With EVs, utilities have a green light to supercharge their business. Plus, the consumer, public policy, and environmental benefits are plentiful—and the cars are fun! Drive on! 

Comments

For those individuals that live in areas where there is snow are all electric vehicles practical? My concern is that if you use the car's heat during those days where it is cold/snowy there goes the battery charge. Same would be true for summer when you need air conditioning. Living in Ohio we have cold winters and generally hot summers. Joe Zuschak - zuschakj@firstenergycorp.com

Thanks for your question Joe, and apologies for the delayed reply. Just as with conventional vehicles, using the heat and air conditioning reduces fuel efficiency and range. I live in Colorado and drive an electric car, as do a number of my friends. There are a lot of EVs around here and we have a serious winter and a hot summer. We adjust our range expectations when the weather is very cold or very hot. So whether an electric is practical really comes down to the typical driving pattern of the user and the availability of chargers. Over 80 percent of charging happens at home or work. So if you know you have the range with a bit of buffer for your regular commute, it works out fine, even accounting for the range reduction from using heat or air conditioning. I drive a Chevvy Volt, which gets about 40 miles on a charge using no auxiliaries. When I'm using a lot of heat or a.c. that reduces the electric range to about 25 miles. As my commute is about 8 miles roundtrip, this hasn't been an issue. The Volt is a hybrid, with an 8 gallon gas tank, but I often go 4 to 5 months without using any gasoline, even during the winter and summer. The only time I need gas is when I go on a longer road trip. A growing number of all electrics are available or soon to be released with 200+ mile range, including the Chevvy Bolt, Nissan Leaf from 2018-on, the "$35,000 Tesla Model 3, and some higher end models. Ranges will continue to grow as battery technology and costs improve. Because electrics have a lot of battery weight low in the car, they have a great center of gravity and good traction in snow. The main problem I have with the Volt in the snow is that it is low to the ground, to improve aerodynamics. That can cause some scraping if I'm trying to drive through deep snow. But that is an issue with many smaller, lower-to-the-ground cars. Please let me know if you have any further questions. Michael Shepard michael_shepard@esource.com

Contributing Authors

Chairman of the Board

Michael Shepard, a cofounder of the company, is responsible for the company’s overall strategic direction. He speaks frequently at industry events...