by Zach McDonald |

One of California’s largest electrical providers, Southern California Edison, has released a report [PDF] detailing the usage patterns and expanding needs of its plug-in vehicle driving customers since the technology re-emerged to the market in late-2010. In the paper, SCE reports that it currently services 12,000 plug-in electric vehicle owners, or roughly 10 percent of the nationwide total. Over the next six and a half years, the utility expects that number to grow to many as 350,000 households.


Naturally, since most plug-in owners opt to install higher-voltage Level 2 charging stations, which recharge their cars at 240V rather than the 120V voltage of a standard outlet, equipping the grid to handle this added demand might present some challenges for a utility. Southern California Edison says that it has had no problems meeting the current needs of its PEV-driving customers, and that it will be ready for an 338,000 additional cars hooking up to the grid each night by 2020.

The study bodes well for other utilities across the nation, which will face the same challenges (albeit at a slower pace) in the coming years, as plug-in adoption approaches the 1 million-vehicle goal set by the President four years ago. SCE found that 65 percent of the plug-in drivers in its coverage area drive plug-in hybrids, which have smaller batteries and require less charge each night. Of those PHEV drivers, half charge almost exclusively via a standard outlet, which significantly tamps down strain on the system.

Southern California Edison says that improvements to the grid are being addressed on a need basis, which happens to coincide with upgrades that would be necessary anyway. So far, just 1 percent of the upgrades it has made are directly attributable to EVs.

The greatest challenge identified by the study lies with multi-occupancy dwellings such as apartment buildings and condos. According to SCE, less than 5 percent of the building owners and condo associations surveyed are currently considering providing charging infrastructure for plug-ins. That may change as more vehicles hit the road, but in the meantime, the issue will remain a barrier for plug-in adoption among non-homeowners.