Legal & Regulatory

Utility Regulators Take EVs for a Spin

A new feature at the annual meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) this year is an opportunity to test drive a variety of electric vehicles (EVs). State regulators and others attending the event could sign up to test drive electric models from Tesla, BMW, Nissan, and GM.

Between noon and 2:30 p.m., about 100 attendees had taken test drives, Joel Levin told POWER. Levin is executive director of Plug In America, a consumer group of EV drivers that is dedicated to increasing EV adoption. In addition, 200 commissioners were signed up for test drives later in the afternoon (Figure 1).


1. The Tesla Model X was one of the electric vehicles utility regulators had an opportunity to test drive at the annual meeting of utility regulators in La Quinta, Calif., on November 15, 2016. Source: POWER/Gail Reitenbach


Levin explained that making the test drive event available to utility regulators was important because they have a lot of influence over how electricity is used in their states. One challenge, he said, is that consumers don’t understand EVs, but if they drive one, “they get it.” They “get” that EVs are “powerful, quiet and fun to drive.” His group has run 235 events in 2016, resulting in about 120,000 people taking test drives.

A utility was a partner in the NARUC test drive event. Southern Co. Product Manager Lincoln E. Wood won an internal company innovation program award for his idea to have the regulated utility promote EV use (Figure 2). When asked if the program was proposed as a way to increase load, Wood acknowledged that increased electricity use was a part of the rationale, but so were other benefits, including environmental and grid-balancing factors. Southern has developed a portal of sorts for EV education and resources.


SouthernCo Lincoln E Wood_PWR GR
2. Lincoln Wood won a Southern Co. innovation challenge for his proposal to promote EVs. Source: POWER/Gail Reitenbach


—Gail Reitenbach, PhD is POWER’s editor (@GailReit, @POWERmagazine).



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