Technology

Electric Utility Trade Group: Time To Rev Up For Plug-In Vehicles

In a recent report, the Edison Electric Institute encourages its members to help build the infrastructure for the rise of electric vehicles—as well as to lead the way by purchasing the technology for their own fleets.

The auto industry may not be anywhere near turning electric cars into the de facto option on the highway, but when that does happen, the electric utility industry hopes to lead the way.

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the industry’s trade group, is pushing its members to build the infrastructure that will someday make it easy to charge vehicles wherever necessary. The reason? It’s seen as a growth area in a space where demand is starting to mature.

“Electrifying the transportation sector is a proactive, positive strategy: It enables significant economic and environmental benefits and new opportunities for consumer engagement,” the institute stated in a recent report, “Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge” [PDF].

EEI sees potential for the electric grid to eventually replace the large amount of petroleum used to fuel vehicles. The association highlights Energy Information Administration research noting that 93 percent of energy consumed by vehicles is petroleum-based.

Taking Its Own Medicine

EEI is encouraging industry members to set an example by spending at least 5 percent of their budgeted fleet acquisition funds on electric vehicles and other plug-in technology. The report notes that electric vehicle prices are starting to drop, particularly in the case of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.

“The electric power industry is a tremendous leader in supporting electric transportation, but we must continue to strengthen our efforts and lead by example. One way we can do that is by leveraging our industry’s buying power to purchase more [plug-in electric vehicles] for our fleets,” EEI President Tom Kuhn said in a news release. “The white paper released today is a road map for a long-term, coordinated effort to further spur the development of electric vehicle technologies in the electric transportation market.”

The trade group sees a number of benefits to this strategy, including a potential for cost savings on maintenance and fuel, safety benefits for utility crews, the ability to work more hours in areas with noise restrictions, and a reduction in carbon emissions.

It would be a big change for the industry—just 1.7 percent of vehicles purchased by electric utilities in the past five years are plug-in vehicles.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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