The largest utility in Texas says growth of large EVs — like electric delivery vans and semi trucks — could necessitate “major investments” to its distribution grid.

The biggest utility in Texas is casting a nervous eye at the future as it prepares for a wave of large electric vehicles that could demand “major investments” in its power grid.

“The individual owner of an [electric] sedan or SUV is not our major problem at the moment because they’re going to be distributed all across our system,” said David Treichler, director of strategy and technology at Oncor Electric Delivery. “We’re going to have points of investment … but it’s not a major revolution or transformation of our system.”

The issue, Treichler said, comes with larger EVs, like Class 6 and Class 8 trucks used for deliveries, and larger electric semi trucks being piloted by Volvo and Tesla. Those could necessitate transformative changes to parts of Oncor’s distribution grid due to their charging needs.

“Recently, our friends at Amazon bought 20,000 Daimler Sprinter vans to deliver their packages in one year,” Treichler told an audience at the DistribuTECH convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, this month. “They’re all gas today, but once you start converting all of those 20,000 vans per year into electric, how do we as Oncor, a utility, get ahead of that issue?”

Imminent shift

Oncor, which serves more than 10 million people in and around Dallas, Texas, is preparing for that shift to begin soon. The utility expects large EVs could be cost competitive with traditional gas-fueled options in the early to mid 2020s, Treichler told Utility Dive after the event. Amazon, for instance,bought 100 EV vans from Mercedes for its German operations last year, and this month invested $700 million in the EV startup Rivian.

Already, Treichler said, Oncor is getting inquiries about vehicle charging from its commercial customers.

“The things around trucks are starting to happen,” Treichler told the conference audience. “One of the things that brought this whole issue to our attention was about six or eight weeks ago, we got an inquiry from a company that wants to build a logistics center just outside of Dallas.”

At the outset, Oncor expects most large electric vehicles will operate during the day and come back to a central depot to charge at night, creating big pockets of electricity demand that were not there before. For the logistics company, Oncor calculated that charging all of its 325 fleet vehicles would add 40 MW to the customer’s power demand — a huge increase over the 0.5 MW load the utility typically sees from a commercial ratepayer.

And that’s just one company of many, Treichler stressed.

“What do you see when you fly into Dallas? A sea of warehouses as far as you can see,” he said. “Every one of them has a fleet.”