State Commission Approves Xcel’s Savings Program for Electric Vehicle Owners
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State Commission Approves Xcel’s Savings Program for Electric Vehicle Owners

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will allow a rollout of a program testing a new, more efficient solution for at-home charging.

In a Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) meeting on Thursday, Xcel Energy received the approval it needed for a pilot program offering a new, more efficient electric car home charging option.

The program involves equipment that can meter electric vehicle charging separately from home usage – allowing charges at off-peak, discounted rates – but without the typical need for a second physical meter, which has a high installation price, and thus, has been a deterrent for consumers.

In the place of the second meter, the solution, dubbed a “smart charger,” relies on embedded load monitoring technology (with billing-quality accuracy), as mentioned in Minneapolis-based Xcel’s initial filing with the MPUC.

The pilot program addresses a second customer barrier as well: the burden car owners face when selecting and installing the actual chargers. Xcel will boost their involvement as guides in the selection process and will work with contractors to help customers with installations.

Another feature of the program, as noted by the Star Tribune, is that Xcel will offer a 240-volt charger which can provide six times more miles per hour of battery than the standard 120-volt machine. Though these higher-voltage chargers are available on the internet for about $600, Xcel’s program serves as a “one-stop” solution, giving a better charger option alongside an integrated service which includes metering.

With the current system from Xcel for charging electric cars at home, the highest up-front cost lies in the second meter service installation, which can range from $200 to as high as $2,000. If that can be eliminated, as the pilot program aims to do, Xcel calculates total cost reductions for equipment and installation to be as much as $1,800, and upfront cost savings to be potentially $1,050.

“The proposed pilot is designed to refine the terms of service to better serve EV drivers, and to provide a learning opportunity for the company, its customers, regulators, and other stakeholders,” the filing stated. “The pilot will seek opportunities for cost savings compared to [Xcel’s] current customer offers and will also seek to improve the customer experience while maintaining safe and reliable electric service.”

Xcel’s pilot program will be the latest in efforts to adapt to the electric vehicle market, as the MPUC and Xcel, among other entities have introduced or approved previous measures to minimize costs of owning the eco-friendly vehicles.

“I think this is critically important,” Commissioner Matt Schuerger said at the PUC meeting. “Electric vehicles are coming, and we need to have a pathway into this and evolve with it.”

Xcel’s pilot program aimed at improving the market by reducing costs and hassle follows a smart charging pilot already launched in Colorado. The company aims to have 100 participants in its Minnesota program.