Electric vehicle owners want cooperatives to help put more EVs on the road by making it easier for drivers to charge their batteries and offering them discounted rates for power, according to a new NRECA study created in partnership with E Source.

“EV owners want their energy utilities to play a role in expanding the EV community,” wrote Brian Sloboda, NRECA’s director of consumer solutions, in a report summarizing the findings of the consumer study.

Specifically, EV owners would like their utilities to help make it easier to purchase in-home chargers by offering information, rebates or help with installation, according to the study.

They also want discounts for charging their vehicles during non-peak hours and for owning EVs, which benefit utilities by boosting the demand for electricity. Demand has been stagnant across much of the nation because of increased energy efficiency, and many utilities see EVs as a way to help reverse that trend.

Some co-ops already offer special rates to EV users who agree to charge their vehicles overnight, when overall demand is low. Others provide financial incentives to EV users to buy smart chargers that allow co-ops to have some control over when those vehicles are being recharged.

“The type of program implemented will vary greatly from one co-op to another,” Sloboda wrote. “This will be based on market readiness and acceptance of the technology.”

To assess EV consumers’ attitudes, NRECA partnered with E Source, a consulting company based in Boulder, Colorado, that provides research for utilities and their customers on a wide range of topics. The EV study used focus groups and detailed observations of a small sample of customers in their daily lives.

Co-ops can play a big role in educating their consumer-members about EVs, especially since auto dealers and car manufacturers have been “strangely absent” in getting the word out, the report said.

“There are several factors that accelerate the path to EV ownership that energy utilities could potentially help influence,” Sloboda wrote. “The range of programs runs the spectrum from educational materials on the co-op’s website to EV loaner programs to give people the experience of driving an EV.”

Quite a few co-ops own EVs that they allow their members to test-drive. Some offer members a chance to take them out for a brief spin while others, such as the Gunnison County Electric Association in Colorado, give them the opportunity to drive the EV for a week or more to see how it fits into their everyday lives.

Many EV owners experience “love at first drive” and are passionate advocates of their vehicles, convincing friends and family members to try them, the report said.

“EV owners feel as if they are part of a close-knit community,” Sloboda wrote. “They often share information and lessons. The co-op could help to facilitate the sense of community by sponsoring EV events for owners and potential owners.”