Plug-In Electric Vehicles

Many of our customers are adopting a greener driving alternative by purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV). In fact, our service area is among the initial target markets for these vehicles, making our customers among the first to purchase them. We continue to work with our customers to facilitate a smooth transition to this next generation of vehicles.

Engaging With Customers

PG&E is focused on working with customers with PEVs, including communicating the benefits of the vehicles in local workshops, as well as discussing key issues such as the best time to charge PEVs.

We are helping customers manage the costs of owning PEVs. We offer customers two electric vehicle rates to manage their monthly energy bill and charging costs; in 2012, we proposed a new, simpler rate plan for electric vehicle charging that is pending approval by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Our online calculator helps customers understand the potential costs and savings of PEV ownership. Customers can enter their choice of vehicle, predicted average monthly usage and charging schedule and other information, and then see the projected electricity costs and gasoline savings. PG&E customers who are planning to buy an electric vehicle can also contact PG&E to learn about options for getting their residence plug-in ready and to start their application for service.

We are also working with automakers during the PEV purchase process to help ensure a smooth experience when customers return home with a PEV.

Exploring “Smart Charging” Technologies

For most PEV owners, a Level 1 charger using a 120-volt circuit—like those found in most homes—is sufficient. A Level 2 charger using a 240-volt circuit can cut charging time nearly in half but requires wiring upgrades. Depending on what a customer chooses, it may be necessary for PG&E to upgrade the infrastructure that delivers electricity to a property.

Looking forward, we have piloted and tested various “smart charging” technologies that will make it easier for PEV customers to charge off-peak, using technologies such as the Home Area Network to interact with SmartMeter™ technology.

PG&E recently collaborated with IBM and Honda to help demonstrate that third parties are capable of providing grid services from PEVs.

More broadly, PG&E is working with national and international organizations to help develop codes and standards for electric vehicles and the necessary charging infrastructure. This includes actively supporting the development of the Society of Automotive Engineers standard of communications between PEVs and the grid as well as the Smart Grid standard Smart Energy Profile 2.0. This standard will ultimately facilitate “smart charging” and PEV load management programs that help customers safely, efficiently and cost-effectively charge their electric vehicles during off-peak hours.

Planning for the Future

When charging, a PEV has the potential to draw about three times as much power as a typical San Francisco house, presenting unique challenges to the local distribution grid.

Part of our efforts to prepare for more electric vehicle owners is managing the impact these cars may have on existing infrastructure. This may involve service upgrades in neighborhoods where multiple electric vehicles are being charged. We also continue to encourage off-peak charging.

Additionally, to help ensure a consistent electric vehicle strategy across the state, we continue to participate in the California PEV Collaborative and the California Electric Transportation Coalition. We are also working with local officials and service providers on electric vehicle permitting, equipment and infrastructure issues.

Additionally, we are working with organizations such as the Electrification Coalition and Electric Drive Transportation Association to develop smart policies and incentives to encourage broader adoption of alternative fuel vehicles.