SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Electric vehicles may not be associated with a town of fewer than 1,000 people but Arlington is preparing for their arrival.
“This might be five to 10 years down the road,” Arlington Mayor Curt Lundquist said of any influx of electric vehicles. But, Lundquist said, electric vehicles will come as more auto companies are making them. There are already hybrid owners in town, he said.
As of 2018, South Dakota had registered 256 electric and 326 plug-in hybrids in South Dakota, according to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. There were more than 314 plug-in vehicles (PEVs) on South Dakota roads as of 2017, according to Plug In America.
The sale of electric vehicles in the state has been on an overall increase since 2016, according to multiple industry sources.
The city is discussing police for residential charging of electric vehicles. The policy would help protect the city’s municipal electrical system and help make sure that vehicles can be charged at home.
“The real concern is the home-charging of electric vehicles and the use of a 240-volt outlet for electric vehicles to charge,” said Chris Nordquist, an electrical engineer with DGR. DGR is the city’s electrical consultation.
Nordquist said residences will serve as the ‘gas station’ for electrical vehicles since 90% to 95% of vehicle travel is within a radius of about 30 miles. Quick charge or other charging stations would be used for vacation or longer distance travel.
The two main concerns with home charging are when electric vehicles would be charged and how many vehicles would be charged at the same time, Nordquist said.
The city’s electric transformers are built to handle roughly three houses and 25 kilowatts of power.
“A (electric) Tesla will pull eight kilowatts. A new Ford 150 will pull 19 kilowatts. That’s 2 1/2 times a Tesla,” Nordquist said.
If two electric vehicles that require a high kilowatt use are plugged in at the same time when appliances are being used, it could overload a transformer, Lundquist said.
“Generally if you have an overload and it fails, you find you need to scrap (the transformer),” Norquist said.
Transformers are expensive, he said. The cost has risen in the past several years and the availability has declined.
If the electric vehicles are plugged in at home during peak times, that can overload the transformer and the overall system, Nordquist said. The city would likely need to buy energy from its supplier Heartland at a higher price, he said.
“Electricity prices are demand-driven,” Lundquist said. “A peak demand in one month’s time can affect what the rate is. You can end up going backward.”
Lundquist said the city is considering a possible off-peak schedule for electric vehicle charging or a program that’s used for water hearts. The city can shut off the water heaters for participating customers to reduce the energy demands during peak times.
It’s possible the city could have a plan in which electric vehicles are plugged in at 5:30 pm but the charge doesn’t start until 11 pm, Nordquist said.
Lundquist said one important piece will be for residents who buy electric vehicles to inform the city. That way the city can monitor the electrical demand and prepare for demand.
“A big part of this will be community outreach,” Nordquist said.
The city cannot just replace existing electrical transformers with larger capacity transformers because that’s too expensive, especially if the demand does not yet exist, Nordquist said.
A larger capacity transformer will use energy just to use it if the demand is not there, he said.
“You never want to oversize a transformer,” Nordquist said.
Lundquist said electric vehicles are a new area of consideration for cities and it’s important for small towns to address it. That’s especially true for small towns with municipal electric service, he said.
Arlington is not “racing ahead” with any policy, Nordquist said. But it is being proactive, he said.
Nordquist and other DGR associates work with many cities in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. They’ve advised the cities to consider policies on home charging of electric vehicles, Nordquist said.
“Some communities are more willing to listen,” Nordquist said.