Supercharged strategies to fast-track electric fleet interconnection

Row of cargo electric trucks against with sun

By Kae Tuitt

As more and more companies transition to zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles, it is increasingly clear that the future is electric. Still, some fleet owners coordinating receipt of new electric trucks and buses may face challenges with delays arising from the potentially lengthy and opaque interconnection process of getting EV chargers connected to the grid. Interconnection delays can make it difficult to adhere to project schedules and put projects at risk.

Fleets can help address these challenges by encouraging states and utilities to adopt policy and technical solutions for overcoming interconnection delays. Currently available options include hybrid interconnection, flexible interconnection and ramped connection. Fleets don’t have to let grid connection delays slow down project timelines — by urging utilities to implement these strategies, they can avoid unnecessary delays and alleviate risks associated with EV deployment and investments.

Hybrid interconnection

Hybrid interconnection can help fleets speed up the interconnection application process when applying for multiple resources, such as combined EV charging with solar and/or batteries. Instead of making separate requests for each one, the hybrid method would allow fleets to streamline the process by combining multiple resources into a single interconnection request. This would reduce the time it takes utilities to review and assess each request and minimize the amount of back and forth between different departments within the utility.

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Typically, a fleet looking to obtain grid connections for solar panels, batteries and EV chargers would need to submit the charger interconnection request separate from the other resources. Different departments within the utility review each request separately, which can result in resource deployment delays. The fleet may also take on the responsibility of coordinating communication between each department, which can slow the time it takes the project to come online. Fleets utilizing hybrid interconnection only need to submit one request for multiple energy resources through a combined application, bypassing the delays associated with navigating different departments.

Flexible interconnection

Flexible interconnection can help fleets speed deployment of charging infrastructure and get interconnected quicker by allowing charging up to a certain point based on grid conditions and a fleet’s actual charging behavior rather than the worst-case scenario for the grid. Fleet managers can avoid or postpone the need for grid upgrades by managing peak power drawn from the grid, allowing them to interconnect their chargers and bring EVs into service faster.

For fleets, this functions as an agreement with the utility to only charge vehicles at a pre-determined kilowatt range not to exceed a certain capacity. These restrictions can fluctuate, allowing for dynamic maximum capacities depending on grid restraints, such as time of year or off-peak hours. Software and hardware options are available to help fleets adhere to those limits. This means these agreements can range from simple to sophisticated based on the needs and capabilities of the fleet and utility.

Ramped connection

Ramped connection allows fleets to sustainably scale energy usage over time and electrify additional vehicles as grid upgrades are completed and more power becomes available. It works similarly to flexible interconnection in that fleets make an agreement with the utility to limit charging to a certain peak capacity. The key difference is the utility will increase the limit as the upstream grid is expanded, allowing fleets to utilize higher charging capacities over time.

If a fleet wants to install five EV chargers with a collective capacity of 500 kW, but the grid’s local hosting capacity is only 400 kW, instead of delaying the project, the fleet and the utility could execute a ramped connection agreement. Under the agreement, the fleet would keep its total demand under 400 kW until grid upgrades were completed, after which the fleet could increase the load to 500 kW. Like flexible interconnection, accountability for all parties can be assured using either software-based or hardware-based tools that limit energy consumption.

There are slight differences across these three strategies, but they offer similar benefits to fleets including:

  • Faster interconnection timelines.
  • Flexible options for charging and cost mitigation.
  • Increased transparency in the utility process.
  • Minimization of future charger investments and upgrades.
  • Easy to combine with managed charging to reduce overall energy consumption.

Vehicle electrification is expected to drive a significant need for distribution grid upgrades, and business as usual could lead to long interconnection timelines for fleets. Hybrid interconnection, flexible interconnection and ramped connection can help fleets overcome interconnection barriers and provide cost-effective ways to manage charging requirements and hefty upfront investments. Utilities are responsible for implementing these interconnection strategies, so fleets can’t opt-in if utilities don’t make them available. It’s imperative that fleet managers advocate for more flexible options from utilities, so their new electric trucks and buses aren’t sitting unused waiting for chargers to be powered.

Fleets can also incorporate interconnection strategies ahead of time by developing transition plans and setting sustainable transportation goals to ensure quicker EV deployments and successful electrification projects. To learn more, visit EDF’s Fleet Electrification Solution Center — a free resource offering fleet owners and operators a one-stop-shop to navigate their fleet electrification journey.

EDF will also be at the upcoming NAFA Expo, Monday, April 22nd where Kae Tuitt and Lindsay Shigetomi will be speaking on the following topics:

  • Municipal Fleets Accelerating the Electric Vehicle Revolution
  • Shift in Propulsion: Benefits of EV Transition Planning
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