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Pike Research says lack of technical standards could hinder utilities’ readiness for EVs; forecasts $5.1B in spending from 2010-2015 on EV IT systems

EV IT investment by segment, United States: 2010-2015. Source: Pike Research. Click to enlarge.

Utilities will face a host of new infrastructure requirements to support the increased power demand that will result from customers plugging in to recharge. The majority of EV service equipment (EVSE) will be networked and managed via information technology (IT) and communications systems that will aggregate power demand and enable a coordinated response to changing grid conditions.

However, according to a recent report from Pike Research, “Electric Vehicle Information Technology Systems”, many utilities could be unprepared to deal with the impact of EVs on the electrical grid, due to a lack of standards for sharing information between utilities and external systems.

Pike Research anticipates that worldwide investment in electric vehicle IT systems will reach $1.5 billion annually by 2015, with a cumulative total of $5.1 billion in spending between 2010 and 2015. However, according to the firm’s analysis, those levels of investment are far lower than other smart grid infrastructure categories, and may be insufficient to adequately prepare for the arrival of EVs in increasingly greater numbers over the next five years.

Greater knowledge of the lifetime value of EV IT systems, including the financial benefits from reducing carbon emissions, would make it easier for utilities to justify the investment. While plug-in electric vehicles will not threaten the integrity of the power grid as a whole, they will have an immediate local impact on neighborhood distribution infrastructure. Many utilities are reluctant to make long-term investments in IT systems that will be necessary to support EV charging, often due to state-level regulatory structures that discourage such spending, and as a result they may be playing catch-up as more and more electrified vehicles drive off dealers’ lots.

—senior analyst John Gartner

EVs are expected to be purchased in clusters around neighborhoods that have historically seen high adoption of hybrid vehicles, Pike notes in the report. (Nissan and GM, the first companies to offer the new EVs in the United States, will initially sell vehicles in only a few coastal states plus Arizona, Michigan, and Texas.) If multiple EVs plug in simultaneously at the Level 2 charge rate into a single transformer (built to provide power to three to five households), the power draw could exceed the rated transformer capacity, resulting in equipment failures.

As thousands of EVs begin to plug in daily, peak demand at the conclusion of the work day could be increased if intelligence is not built into the charging process, Pike suggests. EV IT systems are needed to automatically manage charging; during times of extreme weather, demand can exceed supply throughout the day. With a comprehensive EV management system that can respond to grid signals, EV charging is not expected to require the addition of any generation resources.

Automotive, home networking, smart grid, and utility industries are collaborating with organizations, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to develop standards to establish first-time interoperability with grid equipment, but many of these standards will not be completed until 2012 or later. Utilities are largely taking a “wait and see” approach to EV IT investment and are assuming that the vehicles will not sell in sufficient numbers to impact grid performance for several years.

Moreover, utilities’ understanding of the benefits of EV IT systems across all aspects of grid operations including load management, the use of renewable energy, and being able to avoid capital investment in generation and transmission equipment, are not well known today.

Utilities historically have not had the interest, motivation, or resources to develop advanced IT systems, but the promise of the smart grid and the launch of the EV market require a change in philosophy. Companies including EVSE vendors, smart grid companies, third-party energy aggregators, and communications companies are all developing technologies to provide EV IT services to utilities.

Utilities are likely to outsource and partner to develop systems for optimizing EV charging, but most utilities that are currently evaluating the impact of EV charging on the grid do not view investment in IT as an urgent priority today. Therefore, utility service providers currently investing in IT are likely to require several years before they can expect substantial revenue streams from utilities. In many cases, service providers will charge fees for developing the communications and data exchange between vehicles/EVSEs and utilities, and then provide ongoing “software as a service” licenses on an annual basis.

—“Electric Vehicle Information Technology Systems”

Investments in EV IT systems are initially focusing on collecting data and presenting it to consumers, with $125 million invested globally in 2010. Pike forecasts that by 2015, annual investment will grow by more than tenfold as data analytics and integration with utilities' internal information systems becomes paramount. Investments in EV IT in the United States will grow to $371.9 million in 2015, representing 24.5% of the global market ($1.5 billion). The Asia-Pacific region, led by China, will be the largest market by far for EV IT, Pike says.

Pike Research’s report, “Electric Vehicle Information Technology Systems”, analyzes the IT requirements and market opportunities associated with managing EV charging and the interaction with grid resources. The report examines the information and communications systems for EV enablement within the utility grid infrastructure. It includes forecasts through 2015 for investment in EV information and communication technology in world regions, along with profiles of key industry players.



Too many people and organisations exaggerate the impact (on the power grid) of the progressive arrival of HEVs/PHEVs/BEVs. A well designed BEV will used only one Kwh for 10 Km. That's less than 4 Kwh/day per vehicle.

Most home owners can reduce other e-energy consumption that much and more with a few very easy energy saving measures to completely offset the energy used for the e-vehicle. We have reduced the e-energy consumption for our all electric home from 65 Kwh/day to 22 Kwh/day and could do another 5 Kwh/day soon.

One very high SEER/COP heat pump combining hot-water/cooling/heating functions would do it. A national program could promote both EVs and e-energy saving offsets concurrently. In other words, if you want to get the $8000+ subsidy for an electrified vehicles you would have to implement a residential e-energy saving project to offset the e-energy used by such vehicle. Easy to do. No extra load or major changes required for the power grids.

Note: The e-energy offset could be the installation of a solar panel to produce 4 Kwh/day.

Nick Lyons

It seems to me that the issue is going to be transformer loads in specific neighborhoods where EV owners may be clustered. When everyone cranks up his level II 50amp charger at the same time (at night, likely), the grid may have plenty of excess, but the street-level infrastructure may be lacking.

Reducing overall individual usage on a monthly basis, while a good thing, is not going to address this point-load problem.

Keith Ruddell

Teslas are the only production EVs that draw that much current. The Ford Focus EV will only draw 27.5 amps. That's less than an electric clothes dryer. The Volt, LEAF, i-MiEV and Fit EV draw 13.75 amps. I doubt there will be any infrastructure problems. Unless of course, if you live in an area where there are quite a few Teslas.

Nick Lyons

@KR: OK. I've a 40amp, 220v outlet in my garage...hmmmm.

Henry Gibson

As many of you have mentioned, the load for charging an EV is not unusual nor will there be many users and simple charging can be done at night, and a simple natural gas fueled generator might be the best device for very high rate charging anyway as the heat can be used for heating hot water for the house or a hot tub. Later the power company could suggest that the generator be connected to the grid to support it. All cars should be plug in hybrids anyway so there is no urgent need to charge the vehicle at a high rate or at a peak consumption time. This is a case where we don't need to cross a bridge before we come to it. ..HG..


Our Provincial Government has launched a new program (effective 01-01-2012) to promote the sale of 300,000 electrified vehicles per year by 2020. Cash payments of up to $8000 CAN be EV plus financial assistance for the install of domestic and commercial charge stations.


It shouldnt be a big problem in my ac units and thuis we already have to have alot of capacity during the day we have alot of spare cap at night.

BUT it is a problem elsewhere. I know many places where even 2-3 such cars in the wrong spot could blow a transformer. Some places still have very basic and old service.


This is why you want the dealer and power company in on the planning from the get go. If you are on a small transformer for your area, they would like to know you are buying an EV. You get a separate meter and a more favorable rate if your block can handle the load.

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