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As Electric Vehicles Gain Speed, Utilities Power Up

As Electric Vehicles Gain Speed, Utilities Power Up

By Maryline Daviaud Lewett

The vroom of idling delivery trucks and revving sports cars, so familiar up to recently, will soon be a distant sound. What noise, then, will children make when they race their toy cars and trucks down driveways and across colorfully printed cityscape rugs?


The quietly powerful electric vehicle.

The biggest change coming, however, isn’t the sound. It’s the power.

Utilities have both the challenge and opportunity to scale power infrastructure to meet the increasing demand for commercial and personal electric vehicles. According the Edison Electric Institute Electric Vehicle Sales Forecast, to support large-scale electrification, the U.S. needs to construct 9.6 million charge ports, both Level 2 and DC Fast Chargers, by 2030.

As medium and heavy-duty electric vehicles―semi-trucks, delivery vans, buses―hit the roadways now, and at fast-increasing rates over the next few years, utilities will experience the impact of simultaneous charging, corridor charging hubs, and large charging depots―all with charging requirements of 5 MW, 10 MW or more.

In a survey to utilities, Black & Veatch found that 85% of respondents expect multiple charging sites greater than 5 MW in their territory by 2023, but 25% are not taking steps to prepare for EVs. This is troubling considering that, according to the Wood Mackenzie Report, “The Rise of the Electric Car,” in the future, simultaneous charging of 60,000 100 kWh EV batteries with a 5-minute charge time could equate to an instantaneous demand of 70 gigawatts.

As innovators create work-arounds to the traditional grid system, utilities and other high-powered charging stakeholders – including automakers, service providers, infrastructure builders and policymakers – need to embrace the challenge of new mobility and pivot to lead and enable the new energy ecosystem.

Although efforts will be far-ranging, it will be up to utilities to drive the infrastructure upgrades and managed approaches necessary to make widespread electrification a reality. The timing is critical as electric vehicle adoption rates continue to grow, necessitating high-power capacity.

Considering distribution, supply conductor or grid upgrades, substation upgrades, or even a new substation, Black & Veatch estimates it could take 24 months or more to deliver power to a large charge port installation.

Auto and truck manufacturers have invested billions to develop and bring new electric vehicles to the market. Fleet and sustainability managers across the country are embracing the benefits of electrification toward cost-control and helping their organizations meet environmental goals.

The question remains, when electric vehicles arrive en masse, will power supplies be ready?

Many utilities are gearing up for the trends and planning for new load growth, but for industries such as trucking, access to high-power charging
power charging at depots and along electric corridors of the future must be consistent and reliable.

A new Black & Veatch eBook, Electric Vehicles: How Utilities Advance Transportation Electrification and the Grid, outlines the current challenges and upcoming needs that utilities can help solve. The guide is available for download at

The upcoming Utility Dive webinar, How Utilities Can Support the Future of Electric Transportation, at 2 p.m. ET, Thursday, May 21,  also will explore the topic from the perspective of various stakeholders, including Black & Veatch as a systems integrator; Daimler Trucks North America, a leading manufacturer of commercial vehicles; and the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE).

Electric utilities ready to whoosh into the future will benefit from increased customer engagement, new loads and new services. Transportation electrification is here, and all stakeholders are invested in ramping up to meet the growing demands.

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