EV.energy helps utilities save on grid upgrades

One of the many benefits of electric vehicles is waking up to a full charge. Weekday commutes and weekend errands don’t have to be interrupted by emergency trips to the gas station. Instead, all drivers have to do is plug the car in every night, just like they do with their phones.

Most electric vehicle drivers plug in when they arrive home for the evening, typically around 6 p.m. Then they unplug at around 7 a.m. to leave for the day. But the vehicles themselves are typically drawing current for only about three hours.

Many EV chargers start delivering electrons immediately. For now, with EVs accounting for only a small portion of the market, that’s not much of a problem. But EV sales have been growing rapidly, and in the near future, when dozens of drivers plug in at around the same time, the surge of demand could easily overwhelm the grid.

That surge doesn’t have to happen, though. Most plugged-in EVs sit idle for about 10 hours every night, meaning if they could coordinate their charging sessions to smooth the demand curve, they’d save utilities billions in avoided electrical grid upgrades.

Some, not all, utilities have attempted to do this through time-of-use rates that offer consumers cheaper prices at times when demand is lower. That requires smart meters, which are far from ubiquitous. Others are attempting to flatten the curve by offering discounts or rebates on smart EV chargers that turn on when the grid has electricity to spare.

U.K.-based startup EV.energy is working to combine those nascent efforts with others into a software platform that can help tell drivers, EVs and chargers when and where to plug in. The company on Thursday announced a $33 million Series B led by National Grid Partners with participation from new investors Aviva Ventures, WEX Venture Capital and InMotion Ventures, as well as existing investors Energy Impact Partners, Future Energy Ventures and ArcTern Ventures.

While the company’s ultimate customers are utilities, it has to convince drivers to use its services. To do that, EV.energy coordinates with utilities like ConEd and National Grid to offer a range of incentives, from rebates or lower rates for charging during off-peak times to rewards for completing a certain number of off-peak charging sessions. Drivers with solar panels can also prioritize charging when their panels are producing, and customers who skip charging sessions during times of grid stress can earn bonuses.

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