History of Advanced Energy’s Transportation Work

By Jonathan Susser | July 14, 2017

Electric vehicles have been gathering speed in recent years, but Advanced Energy has been exploring the technology for over two decades. Through partnerships with electric utilities, government, businesses and schools, Advanced Energy has helped shape the electric transportation industry and promote clean and efficient driving. Among other reasons, Advanced Energy supports electric vehicles for their ability to improve operational efficiency, providing a flexible increase in electrical load that can benefit both utilities and their members. As electric transportation grows, it is essential that communities understand the vehicles and the impacts they can have, and Advanced Energy has been there every step of the way.

Advanced Energy was researching the potential of electric vehicles going back nearly 30 years, long before they started hitting the market in their current form. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Advanced Energy invested in and tested an electric van to assess its application in commercial fleets, and monitored an electric commuter car – the Pontiac Fiero – by taking it on highway trips around North Carolina.

Fast forward more than a decade, and Advanced Energy continued to assess electric vehicle applications. In the mid-2000s, the team received a grant to evaluate the potential of a plug-in electric school bus and helped design and build it with industry partners. Several school districts across the country participated and received buses. The project assessed the operating costs, emissions, fuel economy, and other benefits and limitations of such a system. Although, at the time, potential cost and technical challenges were found, technology development over the past couple of years has demonstrated the promise of electric transit and school buses.

The year 2010 is considered the rebirth of electric vehicles in the United States: the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt arrived, and Tesla further emerged. Starting around this same time, Advanced Energy contributed to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Project Get Ready, which helped communities prepare for electric vehicles. Specifically, Advanced Energy worked with the City of Raleigh to provide education, outreach and workshops to assist with public charging.

In 2011, the Centralina Council of Governments received a U.S. Department of Energy Mountains to Sea grant to create North Carolina Plug-in Electric Vehicle Roadmaps. Advanced Energy collaborated with Centralina and other partners to create five of these roadmaps (North Carolina statewide, greater Charlotte region, greater Asheville region, greater Triangle region and Piedmont-Triad region) that served as comprehensive guides to prepare North Carolina for the adoption of electric vehicles. Furthermore, in 2012, the team worked with industry and government partners to conduct a two-year 40-vehicle Plug-in Electric Vehicle Consumer Usage Study. This project assessed driving and charging patterns that could affect electric vehicle adoption.

Another big milestone for Advanced Energy’s transportation work was the launching of Plug-in NC in 2011. Originally named the North Carolina Plug-in Electric Vehicle Task Force, Plug-in NC is a statewide program that promotes electric vehicles through consulting, education, outreach and resource development. Its primary roles are to spread awareness about electric vehicles, reduce barriers to adoption and conduct research to help integrate them into our communities. Through Plug-in NC, Advanced Energy has developed toolkits, organized workshops and coordinated test drive events to connect with broader audiences and make electric vehicles more mainstream.

Today, with the help of Plug-in NC, Advanced Energy’s transportation focus is on ensuring that people, communities, organizations and electric utilities learn about and prepare for electric vehicles. Events and activities engage the general public, electric utilities and workplaces, and workshops cover everything from electric vehicle basics to how to begin an electric vehicle program at a utility. The transportation team also works closely with clients to design and deliver customized services that include research projects, strategic planning and educational materials.

One example of customized electric transportation services is Advanced Energy’s electric vehicle strategic plans for electric cooperatives. To help electric cooperatives encourage and prepare for electric transportation, Advanced Energy partnered with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives to develop a step-by-step strategic planning guide. The plan provides an overview of EVs and charging stations, details their impacts on cooperative functioning, and offers strategies for how cooperatives can get involved and become their members’ go-to resource for information. The guide has been used by cooperatives across North Carolina to develop new programs that benefit members.

To lead by example, Advanced Energy even has its own company electric car – a Nissan Leaf that is driven around town and displayed at events. Additionally, the transportation team participates in externally organized events and programs, such as Earth Day celebrations and National Drive Electric Week. Two large initiatives that Advanced Energy is currently assisting with are the Duke Energy EV Charging Infrastructure Project and the Volkswagen Settlement. Both of these developments will bring new charging infrastructure to North Carolina and greatly promote and support electric vehicles.

The focus of Advanced Energy’s transportation program has shifted over the last three decades to follow the “Impact Curve.” Originally, the emphasis was on conducting research and testing to better learn about the technology and help get it into the market. Now that electric vehicles have crossed that barrier, a current goal is to make sure people and organizations are educated and prepared for them and their impact. Through customized consulting and program services, Advanced Energy has been able to provide guidance to organizations as they design their own electric vehicle programs.

No matter the need, Advanced Energy is committed to promoting electric vehicles and ensuring that communities are ready for them. As new developments arise, Advanced Energy can be depended on to provide guidance, training, education and consulting to continue to shape the electric transportation market. To learn more about Advanced Energy’s electric transportation services, click here.