NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Department of Energy will work with electric cooperatives to predict future rates of electric vehicle adoption in rural areas so co-ops can better plan for increased demand, a DOE official told co-op leaders at PowerXchange.

“I think everyone has probably gotten the message that the EV wave is inevitable,” said Chris Irwin, the agency’s program manager of advanced grid research and development, at a breakout session on “Predicting the Future of Transportation Electrification.”

“If I can do my job right, I will arm you with information. It should not be the responsibility of your co-op to predict the uptake of these electric vehicles.”

DOE will analyze data across the nation to develop “credible projections that you can customize to your area,” Irwin said.

Co-op leaders say that trying to predict future EV adoption rates will be key as they prepare to serve a national network of EV charging stations funded by the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law.

Garkane Energy Cooperative in Loa, Utah, has been asked by the state to help create at least 14 Level 3 fast-charging stations to serve visitors to the national parks in southern Utah and northern Arizona, said James Clegg, energy adviser at the 14,000-member co-op.

About 10 million people come to visit the national parks each year, and more and more of the rental cars they drive will be electric, he said.

“We’re still scrambling with forecasts,” Clegg said.

Predictions about the level of EV adoption are also crucial to East Kentucky Power Cooperative, a generation and transmission co-op headquartered in Winchester that is working on a plan to encourage EV drivers to charge their vehicles at home during off-peak hours.

“In rural Kentucky, we don’t know the landscape,” said Scott Drake, the co-op’s manager of corporate technical services. “We can’t do a time-of-use rate without that data.”

Instead, the co-op plans to offer EV owners a flat 2-cent discount per kilowatt-hour for charging when demand for electricity is low. The co-op will handle consumer signups for the pilot program on behalf of its 16 distribution co-op members, Drake said. There will be no penalties for EV owners who charge during peak hours.

“It will be all carrot and no stick,” he said.

DOE is conducting more than a dozen simulations at its national labs to help predict EV adoption levels, Irwin said.

“We can give you good information sources from the outside world, so you don’t have to re-create everything,” he said.