Beyond the Meter - Episode 12

Beyond the Meter - Episode 12: Electrification of Transportation

Electrification of Transportation with Catherine Kummer and Michael Luhrs


We’ve all heard of the new electric vehicles that Tesla and other manufacturers are producing, but when you look at electric vehicles from a broader fleet perspective, the possibilities for reducing carbon emissions long-term are exciting! The Smart Energy Decisions team believes this issue of fleet and public transportation conversion to be a key component in moving the energy transition forward, so this conversation was especially interesting to us.

Our guests on this episode are Catherine Kummer, Climate Advisor for the American Cities Climate Challenge to the City of Charlotte, NC, and Michael Luhrs, Vice President of Market Strategy and Solutions for Duke Energy. Speaking from their unique positions, each of them provides a wonderful perspective on the issues driving the move toward fleet and public transportation electrification, how it’s being accomplished on the ground, how the issue impacts corporations, and what role utilities like Duke are playing in making the transition possible. It’s exciting to hear what’s happening and what is projected to happen in the years to come. Don’t miss this enlightening and encouraging conversation.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • Catherine Kummer’s background in renewable energy and transportation [1:44]
  • Michael Luhrs’ work with clean energy and energy efficiency at Duke Energy [2:39]
  • What is driving interest in electric vehicle pilot programs in cities? [3:42]
  • The key drivers of corporate initiatives to create electrified fleets [11:06]
  • Why utilities are embracing the move toward electrification of vehicles [13:47]
  • Reasons cities and businesses believe electrification of vehicles is essential [17:57]
  • Why the total cost of ownership makes the Electric Vehicle (EV) transition a total win [22:28]
  • The role utilities need to play in the EV transition [33:21]
  • Barriers to making the EV switch and how to overcome them [43:55]
  • Looking 3 to 5 years into the future when it comes to vehicle electrification [49:50]

Charlotte, NC is leading the charge in electrifying its fleets

When asked what is fueling the drive behind the electrification of municipality fleets and public transportation, Catherine says that, quite honestly, it’s the cities themselves. As the Climate Advisor for the City of Charlotte, NC she has a front-row seat to the initiatives that the City Hall and City Council are taking in this important step toward the smart energy transition.

The city of Charlotte has implemented an aggressive public education campaign surrounding its clean energy goals, which include community outreach and engagement via many platforms. The city has also put into place two new policies that support electrification goals. These come directly from their Strategic Energy Action plan and aim to entirely electrify the city's fleet by 2030. Currently, as part of that plan, they are working toward the addition of 27 electric vehicles to their light-duty fleet, at an investment of over $740,000, which would make 42 total electric vehicles for the city. The city is also ensuring that the charging infrastructure required is part of that expansion. It’s cities like Charlotte that are leading the way nationwide.

Corporate & utility drivers toward electrification of vehicles

When it comes to why corporations are moving toward the electrification of their vehicles, Michael puts it best when he says it's about sustainability and efficiency — or being clean and cost-effective. Duke Energy has recognized that its constituents are taking on the mantle of the renewable energy transition. With that, corporations are adapting to provide the value to their customers that they want and need. A significant benefit can also be derived from the cost savings involved when implementing electric vehicles. Maintenance, fuel expenditures, noise and emissions pollution, and more go into these savings.

Utilities see the fundamental shift occurring globally in the form of mandates from many cities around the globe that ban emission-producing vehicles by specific dates. Utility companies like Duke can look across the value chain to both produce and deliver the resources needed. The initial load increase for utilities will only be 2% to 4% in most cases, but long term, that demand will grow. The ability to put the infrastructure needed in place is the strength of the value proposition utilities provide.

The total cost of ownership enables the cost of EVs to make sense

Much of the debate about the cost of electrifying municipal or corporate fleets and public transportation has to do with the initial outlay of cash required to get started. While it is a significant upfront investment, that should not be allowed to be the deciding factor. Why? Simply put, it’s an extremely short-sighted approach.

Both Catherine and Michael speak persuasively about the long-term benefits that come from fleet electrification in terms of cost reduction, emissions reduction, and other infrequently considered benefits. Because of this issue, Catherine has developed her own “Total Cost of Ownership” calculations to show exactly how and when cost reductions will occur in the implementation of the Charlotte plan so that all stakeholders can see the black and white of the issue and make informed decisions that benefit the big picture.

Connect with Our Guests

Catherine Kummer - Climate Advisor American Cities Climate Challenge

Catherine Kummer serves as a Climate Advisor for the City of Charlotte as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge—and in partnership with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)—which works to accelerate climate action in 25 cities throughout the United States. Catherine joined the Climate Challenge advising the City of Charlotte after spending the last eight years as the Senior Director of Green Innovation for the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, NASCAR. A native of Raeford, North Carolina, Catherine holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an M.A. in Sustainability from Wake Forest University and Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership from Harvard University.

Michael Luhrs - VP Market Strategy & Solutions

Michael Luhrs serves as Vice President of Market Strategy and Solutions for Duke
Energy. In this role, he is responsible for bringing integrated solutions across the digital
and physical energy infrastructure to provide unique value and solutions nationally.
Michael’s strong focus on innovation, transformation and growth of customer solutions
has proven successful with improving and accelerating departments through disciplined
innovation, strategy alignment, revenue growth, regulatory adaptation and driving cost

The teams aligned under Michael’s purview are: Home & Business Services, Market Strategy, Connected Communities, Solutions Development, Solutions Partner, Transportation Electrification, and Portfolio Structuring. Collectively, the Market Strategy and Solution team generate approximately $500M in EBIT each year. The functions of these departments lead the evolution of the business from strategy to solutions development to execution across all customer segments. They cover a broad range of solutions from demand response, non-regulated products (such as behind the meter energy protection and insurance/risk mitigation services), digital infrastructure services, small cell and macro wireless, outdoor lighting, and electrification of transportation.
Michael offers more than 20 years of experience in the energy industry. Known for his excellence in business strategy and operations, Michael is a creative thinker and problem solver. He has a knack for developing client-centered solutions and generating a positive impact to the bottom line.

Before assuming his current position, Michael served as General Manager of Business Excellence for Duke Energy. Prior to the merger with Progress Energy in 2012, Michael served as General Manager of Energy Supply Finance for Progress Energy. He has held several other leadership roles including Resource Planning Manager, Audit Manager, as well as roles in Generation Operations. Born in Colorado, Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering, as well as Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Management Finance and Economics, from North Carolina State University. He was also distinguished with Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors.

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