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Charging Ahead: The Last Mile

Is the U.S. electric infrastructure ready to support one million electric vehicles?


The Obama Administration has set a goal of one million electric vehicles (EVs) on U.S. roads by 2015. This goal corresponds with automakers' launch of new Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEV) across the country. In response to these developments, Deloitte conducted a study to explore whether the electric utility infrastructure in the United States is ready for the rollout of one million EVs by 2015, what utilities are doing to prepare, and what else, if anything, they could be doing to prepare. Charging Ahead: The Last Mile explores the infrastructure owned by electric utilities, specifically focusing on the last mile to the outlet.

When developing Charging Ahead: The Last Mile, we expected to learn about challenges that utilities might be facing with regards to their generation, transmission or distribution infrastructure. Surprisingly, we found that in general, the electric utility infrastructure is already prepared to meet the President's 2015 challenge.

Our research revealed that utilities will not likely need to upgrade or expand transmission or generation capacity in the next ten years specifically to meet electric demand from EVs at projected adoption rates.

However, the research did identify near-term impacts to the electric infrastructure that deserve further study at the local distribution level, “the last mile,” including possible clustering of EVs on low-capacity distribution transformers, such as 25 kVA , and the potential impact on local transformers of any capacity if clusters of EVs charge simultaneously during hours of peak electric demand. The research also showed that utilities are studying and addressing these impacts.

The research indicated to better prepare for EV electric demand, utilities are seeking notification of EV purchases in their service territories, studying the impact of EV charging on local distribution systems, performing targeted local distribution equipment upgrades, and exploring ways to influence customer charging behavior by incentivizing off-peak charging.

Utilities are not certain whether they will play a major role in residential charging equipment installation, as installations are being managed largely by auto manufacturers and electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) companies. One sphere in which utilities might benefit from playing a greater role is the build-out of the public infrastructure  - an area where respondents reported that utilities are currently involved only tangentially.

In summary, we learned that the U.S. electric infrastructure will continue to deliver safe, reliable electricity, even at EV penetration rates far higher than the one million vehicles projected by 2015. However, at the local distribution level, utilities are studying and preparing for potential EV clusters and it will become increasingly important for them to be notified of the location of new EVs in their service territories to continue to ensure local system reliability. Utilities' role in the planning of public and commercial infrastructure has been limited, but it could be worthwhile for them to participate further.

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Our preliminary conclusions from Charging Ahead: The Last Mile are that U.S. electric utility infrastructure is prepared to produce and deliver the electricity required for EVs, but the open questions are:

  • Where/when will clusters of EV charging occur?
  • Who will build and how will we pay for the public charging infrastructure?

These and other questions will be explored in our full report Charging Ahead: The Last Mile to be issued this fall. Beyond the content summarized above, we will use several case studies to reveal stakeholder viewpoints on the readiness of the electric vehicle infrastructure and the opportunities and challenges involved in the build-out of the residential, public, and commercial charging infrastructure.

Also, please join us for the Deloitte Dbriefs, “The Last Mile,” on September 19, 2012, for additional perspectives on the readiness of the Electric Utility Infrastructure.

Study Methodology

Charging Ahead: The Last Mile consisted of primary interviews, as well as an online survey targeted at utility companies regarding their preparations for electric vehicles. Over 70 entities including utilities, retail companies, EVSEs, state and local government agencies, and trade associations participated in the overall study. The study was supplemented with secondary research, including academic studies and publications. Charging Ahead: The Last Mile follows a report Deloitte published in Fall 2011 on consumers’ attitudes toward EVs and their likelihood of purchasing them, titled Unplugged: Electric vehicle realities versus consumer expectations. Read on to sample what Charging Ahead: The Last Mile has revealed about utility and other stakeholder views on the impact of charging electric vehicles on the electric utility grid.

Download the executive summary to learn more.

As used in this document, ‘Deloitte’ means Deloitte LLP (and its subsidiaries). Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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