How to motivate and educate EV owners

Published on December 2, 2019 in Smart Charging by Scott Lepold


Discover the best way to educate EV owners and get buy-in for demand-side management programs.

Buying an electric vehicle (EV) is a journey. Most who go electric would have purchased or leased a vehicle before, but an EV is different. Until recently, new electric vehicle drivers have been early adopters and were well informed by the time they are picking the color of their new car.

 

As prices for new EVs continue to drop, and more models enter the market, we are seeing a change in the type of person who is switching from their old gas car. This new consumer isn’t an early adopter, cutting edge or necessarily technology savvy. A potential EV owner has a lot to learn.

 

Luckily, there is a partner that has a vested interest in helping all EV owners, and it’s one they already know: their electric utility company.

The perfect pairing: Electric utilities and EV drivers

Electric utilities and electric vehicle owners go together like peanut butter and jelly. They’re so much better together. Electric utilities are in a unique position of providing expanded services to a growing segment of customers. These services could include energy rate designs for EV owners or better integration with charging services and billing.

 

In return, utilities win loyal customers and access to flexible load by encouraging off-peak charging, peak avoidance, or aligning EV charging load with renewables. All of these can result in reduced costs for the utility and less stress on the grid.

 

One way to accomplish this is through a customer-controlled loadshifting program like SmartCharge Rewards. This program not only encourages EV owners to charge when it is the most beneficial but also provides a platform to educate them on why it is important.

What is SmartCharge Rewards?

SmartCharge Rewards enables utilities to shift EV charging load, while creating happier customers by rewarding good charging habits. This gamification-based program has high enrollment, as drivers are treated like a part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Drivers continue to participate thanks to ongoing points accrual, achievement levels and rewards. To help illustrate what this would entail, below is an example of an EV owners journey in a SmartCharge Rewards program.

 

 

Simply adopting the SmartCharge Rewards program is only part of the process though. In order for a project like this to succeed, you also need to get EV driver buy-in. By engaging an EV driver you stand a better chance of ensuring your program is successful. To see where to begin, view our three-step process below:

Step 1: Engage EV drivers

Say a customer receives their monthly utility bill as per usual. However, when they’re reading through it, this one happens to contain a leaflet talking about a new EV charging program. It gives them some information about how their new electric vehicle charges, on the EV community in their area and how they can help others “go electric.”

 

They learn about how to prevent disruption to the electricity in their neighborhood while also doing their part to help the environment. They’re excited as participation is easy. Plus, they stand to get rewards by doing something they are doing anyways: charging their EV.

Step 2: Teach EV drivers about peak load

EV owners are relatively savvy about energy and that their actions directly tie into the greater good. Most often, they are happy to change their own behavior if it benefits everyone but they need to be made aware.

 

In that leaflet, they read about how their utility company wants them to avoid charging during specific times called “peak times.” It says that they should avoid these times because there is already an increased amount of electricity needed then. By adding EV charging, the utility may need to use additional sources to generate more electricity. This is more expensive and may require a less eco-friendly solution, like coal.

 

Lastly, these “peaks” can damage transformers, which could cause a blackout. It could also mean they have to be replaced sooner than originally planned.

 

To avoid all these issues, the utility company will reward the EV owner to simply charge at a different time. It seems like a win-win situation, so the EV owner visits the advertised website to learn more.

Step 3: Outline the perks

Once an EV driver has visited the website, they see that, in addition to the rewards for charging off peak, they also will be given access to a portal. This portal gives them information about their charging behavior and also gives information about the performance of their EV like battery health.

 

They will also receive achievement badges that are shareable via social media. This encourages others to go electric and join in. Not only does this allow them to become an advocate for EVs, but it also can be used to create competition among their peers.

 

In order to receive these rewards they need to install a device in their car that tracks when and where the car is charging. They are a little concerned at first, but once they read about what kind of information is captured and that their privacy is protected they decide to fill out their enrollment form.

 

A few days later they receive an email saying that they have been accepted into the program and that their telematics device — the tool which will collect the information — is on it’s way. Once they receive it, they simply go online, create an account, activate the telematics and clip it into the OBD II port. All of these steps are also explained in the instruction booklet that came with it.

 

They are now enrolled in SmartCharge Rewards and will start earning rewards for charging during certain times. These times are outlined on the program’s website. It’s that simple.

What to keep in mind when marketing EV programs

When communicating to customers about EVs there are a few things that you need to consider.

 

Firstly, not all drivers fully understand concepts like peak demand. Even if they are currently enrolled in a time of use (TOU) or tiered pricing program, they may not know why they will be charged more during these times. This is why it’s crucial to explain it to them.

 

Another key point is to use basic language as much as possible. The EV world, like most industries, is full of jargon and acronyms that can be overwhelming. Keeping it simple helps ensure there’s no room for miscommunication or misunderstanding.

 

Lastly, don’t be afraid to combine these marketing efforts with any other programs you may be running. Although it’s common to try to segregate program marketing, particularly in early or pilot stages when assessing them, you can actually stifle your marketing’s effectiveness. Ultimately you want all your programs to succeed, so combine your resources whenever possible.

 

Learn how to profile and manage EV charging load with solutions for electric utilities by Geotab Energy.


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Disclaimer

Geotab's blog posts are intended to provide information and encourage discussion on topics of interest to the telematics community at large. Geotab is not providing technical, professional or legal advice through these blog posts. While every effort has been made to ensure the information in this blog post is timely and accurate, errors and omissions may occur, and the information presented here may become out-of-date with the passage of time.

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