Helping Members Navigate the Electric Vehicle Experience

by | Mar 4, 2021 | Cooperative of the Future, Electric Vehicles, Energy Cooperatives, Partnerships

Electric vehicle adoption is poised for explosive growth in the next decade. Several major automobile manufacturers have pledged to stop making internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2026, focusing instead on development of electric vehicles (EV); by 2030, it’s estimated that there will be over 18 million EVs on the road and over 20 percent of vehicles sold annually will be EVs; by 2035, two of our most populous states – New York and California – plan to halt new car sales of ICE vehicles; and price parity between the cost of new ICE vehicles and new electric vehicles is expected to be achieved by 2025.

The U.S. is the third-largest market for EVs, just behind China and Europe, and several factors contribute to adoption. A greater range of vehicle options, including the recent release of all-wheel drive sports utility vehicles and trucks, is helping to generate interest. Federal, state and manufacturer incentives have contributed tremendously to adoption, helping offset cost differences between EV and ICE vehicles and making the behavioral changes required more palatable. Major metropolitan areas have an average of 450 public chargers per million residents, reducing range anxiety.

The availability of efficient public and home electric vehicle charging options is critical to widespread EV adoption. This is an area where utilities can support their members and enhance customer engagement. The country’s charging infrastructure will have to grow by 20 percent annually to reach the 9.6 million Level-2 chargers needed. Eighty-eight percent of EV owners charge their vehicles at home, according to HomeServe’s research.

So, what does that mean for energy utilities?

Members overwhelmingly expect information about EVs from their utilities and, before their purchase, seek out cost comparisons between EVs and ICE vehicles, locations of the closest charging stations and information about home charging options. However, this is only the beginning of member expectations – they want their utility to be involved and communicating with them through every step of their EV journey.

Incorporating a range of helpful EV information to utility websites, adding electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to online marketplaces and providing guidance on home installation can significantly enhance the EV customer experience that is presently disjointed.

At present, dealerships and special financing are structured with the purchase of ICE vehicles in mind, and incentives that could save buyers thousands can require research and detailed paperwork and take months to recoup. Many dealers do not stock EVs, and, among those who do, a surprising number are ill prepared to answer basic questions and rarely provide guidance on home charging and related utility offers. Utilities, leveraging their position as a trusted advisor in this space, can help fill these gaps and increase member satisfaction and engagement while doing so.

Members have long indicated their preference that their electric utility be involved with the installation of EVSE, whether it means the utility’s employees or a third party recommended or engaged by the utility. They are likely to contact you for information on local contractors who are available to safely install their chargers – HomeServe’s research found that nearly 30 percent will turn to their utilities for charger help. However, having a charger close at hand doesn’t completely relieve them of anxiety, because nearly three-quarters worry about their Level-2 charger malfunctioning or breaking.

A charger installation isn’t the end of the customer journey, especially with new EV adopters who are navigating the space for the first time. While many energy utilities offer special EV time-of-use rates and provide rebates and incentives for EV purchases and installation of Level-2 chargers, fewer than half of EV owners were aware of them, according to HomeServe’s research. Of those who were aware, better than 80 percent took advantage of these programs – a great opportunity for increased member engagement.

Engaging regularly with members about their EV ownership gives you an opportunity to communicate about charging management – EV owners have shown strong interest in managing their charging in order to take advantage of the best rates and utilize clean energy. In a study commissioned by GE, researchers found that three factors came into play: a desire to be more environmentally conscious, cost savings and enthusiasm for cutting-edge technology.

While utilities and state commissions wrestle with execution of EV-related programs – and who will pay for what – the Alliance for Transportation Electrification and Plug In America are advocating that utilities should be able to recover the costs of EV adoption programs, noting that energy utilities are trusted advisors, uniquely placed to educate the largest potential pool of EV drivers. Utility commissions are paying attention, and the Edison Electric Institute is regularly seeing EV programs as part of proposals and estimates that, to date, 40 utilities have been granted funding for EV programs.

A partnership with HomeServe can be another tool to help encourage the adoption of EVs as we roll out first-to-market EV charger protection and installation solutions.

For information on how HomeServe can complement and amplify your EV programs, contact us.

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