Sept. 24, 2014

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 electric vehicles (PEVs) and electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE).

Raleigh's Plug-In Electric 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 University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 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 PEV deployment as well. The efforts began in 2009 when Raleigh and the Research Triangle Region joined Project Get Ready, an initiative to help U.S. cities prepare for PEVs. 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 the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition, utility Duke Energy, and energy advisor Advanced Energy. This core group of stakeholders developed five key objectives:

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

The team developed and implemented the expedited EVSE permitting and installation processes (see the steps to the right), which have been used by other municipalities as models. 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.

Duke Energy is a key member of the Raleigh regional initiative and is a leading utility with respect to enabling and advancing PEV adoption. Its efforts were originally structured around the Edison Electric Institute's Industry-Wide Plug-In Electric Vehicle Market Readiness Pledge, which it helped develop in 2009. Today, Duke Energy continues to focus on many of the elements of the pledge through related activities that include the following:

  • Infrastructure research—working with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to model the effects of PEV charging on the electrical grid; implementing a three-year load research project that included installing over 400 residential and 150 public EVSE throughout the Duke Energy service territory; and partnering with EVSE manufacturers to evaluate the next generation of charging solutions, including wireless charging.
  • Customer support—streamlining utility service upgrades needed for EVSE installation and setting up a specially-trained customer-service call center to respond to PEV inquiries.
  • Customer and stakeholder education—providing education, outreach, and technical advising through various PEV readiness initiatives; providing PEV related information on the Duke Energy website while helping to develop the GoElectricDrive and TheElectricGeneration websites; and partnering with automakers to enhance understanding of consumer needs.
  • Utility fleet implementation—operating more than 40 PEVs, include Chevy Volts, Nissan Leafs, Ford Fusion Energis, and a Tesla Roadster, with plans to add over 60 plug-in hybrid pick-up trucks, vans, and bucket trucks by the end of 2014.

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. The city also has an e-fax number so paperwork may be submitted electronically.

The steps shown at the right illustrates 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.

Progress to Date

As of 2014, the City of Raleigh has installed nearly 30 EVSE, with 18 of those available to the public. Over 56,000 kilowatt-hours were consumed during 13,000 charging events between August 2010 and August 2014. Additional accomplishments by the City of Raleigh, Triangle Clean Cities Coalition, Duke Energy, Advanced Energy, and other partners include:

  • Developing the Greater Triangle PEV Readiness Plan and the state-wide PEV Roadmap for North Carolina through the U.S. Department of Energy-funded project, NC PEV Readiness Initiative: Plugging in from Mountains to Sea;
  • Addressing charging infrastructure barriers related to building codes, electrical codes, and city ordinances;
  • Installing the city's first combination solar photovoltaic charging station and energy storage demonstration site in partnership with Duke Energy;
  • Providing educational forums to highlight PEV technology and infrastructure, as well as applications such as workplace charging; and
  • Preparing guides and resources such as the Community Planning Guide for Plug-In Electric Vehicles, Charging Installation Handbook for Electrical Contractors and Inspectors, and the Residential Charging Station Installation Handbook for Single-and Multi-Family Homeowners and Renters.

These efforts, in conjunction with state and federal incentives, have led to increased PEV sales in the region. According to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, PEV registrations in Wake County increased from 186 in August 2012 to over 900 in June 2014. In fact, Wake County has twice the number of PEVs compared to neighboring counties. The City of Raleigh also operates several PEVs within the Public Works Department and the Police Department.

For more information about the state's vehicle and infrastructure incentives, see North Carolina Incentives and Laws.

Photo of clouds over the city of Raleigh's sky scrapers.
Connecting Customers with EVSE Providers
PEV customers contact automakers, dealers, or their utility, for a list of licensed electricians to help with EVSE installation. For example, Nissan's preferred provider of EVSE and installation services is AeroVironment. As more vehicle choices continue to enter the Raleigh market, the manufacturers of those vehicles likely will partner with EVSE providers to serve their customers.
Assessing a Customer's Site
PEV customers can obtain a home assessment from an electrician in an EVSE provider's preferred-contractor network (such as AeroVironment) 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 Duke 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.
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 Duke Energy to coordinate the upgrade. The customer can give authority to Duke 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
Duke Energy has been an active participant in Raleigh's PEV 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 PEV 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 PEV charging.