PG&E customers have told the utility they want more fast EV charging options, but those come at a higher price, as outlined in a new proposal from the utility that aims to get more of the vehicles on the road.
To create the infrastructure needed for DC fast chargers, which can fully charge an EV in about 20 to 30 minutes, the utility must spend 8-10 times more than for level 2 chargers, said Ari Vanrenen, spokeswoman for PG&E. Make-ready costs — the infrastructure that allows for chargers to connect to the utility — for level 2 chargers are about $10,000 per charger, depending on the site.
Fast EV charging options are part of a proposed $253 million in projects designed to boost EV adoption, according to PG&E. The company estimated that it could create the “make-ready” infrastructure for DC fast chargers at up to 52 sites, representing 234 stations, said Vanrenen.
“Generally speaking, fast charging installation is significantly more expensive than level 2, because fast chargers require much greater power requirements. Since fast chargers require infrastructure that can handle higher-power loads, they may require us to make upgrades to our electrical equipment that level 2 chargers don’t require,” she said.
EVs are expected to become part of microgrids in the future, and PG&E is already studying ways to use smart EV charging systems to help support the grid during high peak demand periods. One in five EVs in the US are in PG&E territory, the company says.
To identify where to put the fast EV charging infrastructure, PG&E worked with the University of California Davis, which found 300 areas in PG&E’s service territory with expected high demand for fast charging.
If the California Public Utilities Commission approves PG&E’s proposal, the UC Davis study would be used to help decide where to focus on installing fast-charging infrastructure, said Vanrenen.
Under the PG&E proposal, the company will also expand electrification for fleets with medium- and heavy-duty vehicles such as school buses, transit agencies and delivery fleets that tend to use diesel. This portion of the proposal would have a $211 million budget over five years. PG&E would install the make-ready infrastructure for medium- to heavy-duty and off-road fleets.
$22 million over five years
For the fast EV charging infrastructure, PG&E is calling for $22 million over five years. The infrastructure would be for state and privately funded fast chargers.
In the past, infrastructure for fast chargers hasn’t grown quickly due to high costs and the difficulty of installing the infrastructure, according to PG&E. The company’s proposal includes rebates in disadvantaged communities for purchases of fast chargers.
Some recent PG&E proposals for expanding EV use drew criticism because the company wanted to choose the equipment that a site would buy, and ultimately, the company withdrew those provisions of its proposals. In this proposal, PG&E limits its involvement to the make-ready equipment that brings electricity to a charging station.
In addition to the fleet and fast charging projects, the proposal calls for spending $20 million on one-year projects for consumers and heavier duty vehicles. They will focus on topics such as simplifying charging for residential customers, looking into smart vehicle charging for commercial customers, and asking third parties to submit electrification projects to PG&E.
To identify sites and potential hosts for the DC fast chargers, the UC Davis/ PG&E study looked at preferences of hosts, drivers and developers and at forecasted unmet need in 2025. The study also looked at available transformer capacity, said the study.
“Within each area, potential site locations for DCFCs were identified based on criteria from drivers, potential charger hosts, and network developers, as well as current available capacity at the service transformer to install two or more DCFCs without necessitating an upgrade to the distribution service transformer,” said the study.
PG&E offers two rates for EV drivers, said Vanrenen. One of the time-of-use rates combines vehicle owners’ EV costs with their existing meter for their household. The second option separates their EV costs from their other household electricity through a separate meter. The costs — to the homeowners — for the separate meter installation depends on a customer’s existing service and the specifics of their house, but can range from $1,000 to $8,000, said Vanrenen.
During off-peak hours at night, the PG&E time-of-use rate equates roughly to $1/ gallon, said Vanrenen.
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