April 18, 2011

Raleigh, North Carolina's Paves the Way for Plug-In Vehicle Success

High-tech Raleigh, North Carolina, is paving the way for successful deployment of plug-in vehicles and electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) infrastructure.

Raleigh's Plug-In Vehicle Evolution

Raleigh is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States and one of the most high tech. The Raleigh-Research Triangle Region hosts many powerful technology companies and research institutions, including IBM, Cisco, Lenovo, and Cree as well as North Carolina State, Duke, and North Carolina-Chapel Hill universities. Raleigh was designated "America's Most Wired City" in 2010 for its population's widespread access to high-speed Internet connections.

It's no surprise that Raleigh is a leader in plug-in vehicle deployment as well. The efforts got started in 2009 when Raleigh and the Research Triangle Region joined Project Get Ready, an initiative to help U.S. cities prepare for plug-in vehicles. The city assembled an interdepartmental team to tackle issues, such as streamlining the EVSE permitting and installation process. The team included representatives from the city's departments of transportation, sustainability, development services, permitting, administration, and public affairs as well as from utility Progress Energy and energy advisor Advanced Energy. This core group of stakeholders developed five key objectives:

  • Facilitate stakeholder working groups in resolving issues related to plug-in vehicles
  • Educate consumers about plug-in vehicles
  • Establish convenient and grid-compatible plug-in vehicle charging infrastructure
  • Develop relationships with plug-in vehicle and component manufacturers and ensure vehicle availability in the North Carolina market
  • Explore opportunities for economic development related to plug-in vehicles.

The team reviewed EVSE permitting and installation processes used by other cities and adopted a streamlined process (see section below and flow chart at the right). City permitting staff and inspectors, as well as private electricians, were then educated about the process. The team has also reached out to municipalities in the surrounding area to work toward building consistent permitting and installation processes within the region. In addition, partnerships are being explored with community colleges to provide EVSE installation training.

Progress Energy is another of Raleigh's plug-in vehicle leaders. Its efforts are structured around the Edison Electric Institute's Industry-Wide Plug-In Electric Vehicle Market Readiness Pledge, which it helped develop. The following are the elements of the pledge and examples of Progress Energy's related activities.

  • Infrastructure—working with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to model the effects of plug-in vehicle charging on the electrical grid
  • Customer support—streamlining utility-service upgrades needed for EVSE installation and training customer-service representatives to respond to plug-in vehicle inquiries
  • Customer and stakeholder education—providing education, outreach, and technical advising through Project Get Ready; helping develop the GoElectricDrive website; and partnering with automakers to build understanding about consumer needs
  • Vehicle and infrastructure incentives—collaborating with regional stakeholders to develop financial and non-financial incentives to facilitate adoption and ideal charging behaviors
  • Utility fleets—operating six plug-in Toyota Prius conversions, two Ford-built Escape plug-in hybrids, and a Dueco plug-in hybrid bucket truck, with plans to participate in a Chevy Volt demonstration project and add two Ford F-550 plug-in utility bucket trucks in 2011

Raleigh's EVSE Permitting and Installation Process

Raleigh applied its existing "stand alone" permitting and inspection process to EVSE installations. This is also called a "walk through" process because the permit is completed as the applicant is walked through the process by permitting personnel. Getting a permit takes about one hour, and inspections can be performed the day after installation. As a result, the entire assessment, permitting, installation, and inspection process for a simple home-based EVSE project can be completed in as few as two days. Raleigh views the process as an opportunity to train permitting staff and electricians about EVSE. It plans to switch to an even faster, online permitting process as staff and electricians become well versed in EVSE installations.

The flow chart at the right shows Raleigh's model for permitting and installing single residential EVSE stations. More-complex installations (e.g., installing multiple charging stations at one location) have different requirements, including load calculations and a detailed plan review. For more information, visit the city's Development Services Guide, and watch instructional videos about installing residential and public EVSE.

Next Steps

As of mid-2010, Raleigh plug-in vehicle and EVSE deployment was minimal. However, four new public charging stations (purchased with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) were in place by the end of 2010 with 15 to 20 more coming by mid-2011. Free charging will be offered at these stations for two years, and the city will collect data on their use. In addition, the city is working with private property owners, such as shopping malls, to discuss locating charging infrastructure on these properties. Progress Energy and Advanced Energy have received grants to install additional charging infrastructure throughout the Research Triangle Region and will collect data from these stations.

Raleigh is anticipating the arrival of plug-in vehicles as they are made more widely available in 2011, and the city fleet plans to add plug-in vehicles. About 140 privately owned plug-in vehicles are anticipated in the Research Triangle Region in the near term. The city received a grant to convert seven Toyota Prius hybrid electric vehicles to plug-in operation. City personnel meet monthly with Progress Energy to discuss plug-in vehicle promotion and readiness. Progress Energy is working with automakers and EVSE providers to develop a system for notifying Progress Energy about plug-in vehicle purchases in its service area. Advanced Energy is developing a charging station installation document to guide contractors through the EVSE permitting and installation process. Raleigh will host a high-profile EPRI plug-in vehicle conference in July 2011.

North Carolina provides incentives that could apply to plug-in vehicles. See North Carolina Incentives and Laws

Photo of clouds over the city of Raleigh's sky scrapers.
Connecting Customers with EVSE Providers
Plug-in vehicle customers contact automakers, dealers, or their utility, who can provide a list of licensed electricians to help with EVSE installation. For example, all Nissan LEAF purchases are facilitated through the Nissan LEAF website. The website sends information about Raleigh's LEAF customers to Nissan's EVSE provider, AeroVironment, and AeroVironment contacts the customers about EVSE options. As more vehicle choices enter the Raleigh market, the manufacturers of those vehicles likely will partner with EVSE providers to serve their customers.
Assessing a Customer's Site
Plug-in vehicle customers can obtain a home assessment from an electrician in an EVSE provider's preferred-contractor network (such as AeroVironment's network for Nissan LEAF customers) or any other licensed electrician to determine whether the capacity of their electrical panel is adequate for installation of EVSE. Results of a survey by utility Progress Energy indicate that Level 2 (240-volt) EVSE could be installed in the majority of homes without upgrades to the homes' utility service. However, informing the local electric utility about EVSE installation is still encouraged.
Getting a Permit
The licensed electrician or EVSE customer/homeowner visits one of two City of Raleigh inspection centers to obtain a permit. The process to apply for and receive a permit takes approximately one hour and costs $74.
Installing EVSE
The licensed electrician or the customer/homeowner installs the EVSE. In the rare cases in which a utility service upgrade is required, the electrician or customer contacts Progress Energy to coordinate the upgrade. The customer can give authority to Progress Energy to work directly with the electrician, which can expedite the process.
Inspecting the Installation
The licensed electrician or customer/homeowner calls the City of Raleigh to schedule an inspection. If the call is received by 4:00 p.m., the inspection is performed the next day. The EVSE is approved for use as soon as it passes the inspection.
Connecting with the Grid
Progress Energy has been an active participant in Raleigh's plug-in vehicle efforts. Through modeling and planning, it is confident that Raleigh's current grid can manage near-term EVSE-related demand. Residential appliances, such as EVSE, are not metered separately, so energy used to charge a plug-in vehicle is simply added to a customer's electricity bill. However, customers can opt into time-of-use electric rates on a whole-house basis, which could promote off-peak plug-in vehicle charging.