Xcel Energy is taking a three-pronged approach to expand the use of electric vehicles (EVs). It now has multiple efforts under way in Minnesota that focus on home charging, public charging infrastructure, and working with communities and business customers to convert their fleets to EVs.
“We recently announced a $25 million investment in EV infrastructure,” said Kevin Schwain, program manager with Customer Solutions. “And we believe that our pilot programs will lead to more options to help our customers reduce energy and meet their sustainability needs.
“EVs present an opportunity to make the most of our clean-energy investments,” he added. “Our overall plan is the culmination of plenty of research, along with discussions with stakeholders who are as invested in the future of EVs as we are.”
On the home-charging front, an industry-leading pilot program is aimed at making it easier and more affordable for customers to charge their EVs at home. Enrollment for the company’s Minnesota effort closed after just two days due to strong signups from participants.
The two-year program enrolled 100 participants in Xcel Energy’s EV Pricing Plan, which will help save them money by charging their vehicle during the overnight hours, he said. Under the company’s current EV Pricing Plan, customers need to install a second electric meter and service line, which can be costly. Under the pilot program, however, customers will not need a second meter.
Instead, Xcel Energy has worked with contractors to install new charging equipment with embedded energy-monitoring capabilities. This equipment also will charge a customer’s EV faster than the standard charger that plugs into a typical household outlet.
Pilot customers can choose between paying for this new equipment upfront or over time. If split into monthly payments over the two-year pilot period, the cost is just $17.50 a month.
“Estimates show significant cost savings for customers who use this new option,” Schwain said. “And we’re running this pilot to confirm those projected savings, while improving the overall customer experience.”
Through this pilot program, Xcel Energy is helping make it easy for customers at each step of their EV journey, he added, by partnering with charging-station vendors, contract installers and EV dealerships to ensure customers have a seamless experience as they make the switch to driving electric.
In terms of public charging, as EVs increase their driving range, Xcel Energy is working to build the necessary infrastructure for fast-charging networks that allow people to quickly charge their EVs while they’re on the go. One proposed initiative is a fast-charging-corridor pilot effort, which will leverage public and private funds to increase the availability of fast-charging stations on highways and other major corridors.
The company also is working with the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, he said, and has proposed a pilot to support a charging network for everyone who travels through the Twin Cities.
Finally, for fleet vehicles, Xcel Energy plans to make it easier and more affordable for large fleet operators like Metro Transit, the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Administration to integrate electric vehicles into their fleets.
With Metro Transit in particular, the company will provide the electric infrastructure needed to charge the first eight of Metro Transit’s electric buses, Schwain said. These new 60-foot-long, articulated buses will serve a new rapid bus route running into downtown, starting up this year.
In addition, Xcel Energy is looking to provide charging infrastructure for 200 ports for the State of Minnesota’s vehicle fleet and 90 charging ports for the City of Minneapolis’s EV fleet.
In terms of the overall $25 million infrastructure investment, roughly $15 million is slated for efforts involving fleet vehicles. Another $10 million is proposed for funds and matching funds involving public and private organizations, aimed at developing public-charging infrastructure in and around transportation corridors.
“Through our EV efforts, we’re helping customers help the environment by providing fuel for an up and coming form of mobility,” Schwain said. “We’re also selling more of our product, which will help grow load and keep bills low for all of our customers.
“And lastly, it may be a great investment opportunity that will allow us to invest in a new market,” he added. “EVs keep improving and becoming more popular – and we are more confident than ever that this technology will play a big role in Xcel Energy’s clean energy future.”
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