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NYC’s grid is stressed. A smart’ EV charging program aims to help

Con Ed’s revamped SmartCharge program will tap direct-to-EV communications to track and pay drivers for charging at times that reduce grid strain.
By Jeff St. John

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A hand holding a phone with a mobile app with charging status and incentive options for a Tesla plugged into an EV charger’s software taps on-board EV telematics to reward New York City EV drivers for charging when power is plentiful and avoiding charging when the grid is under stress. (

In New York City and two surrounding counties, EV owners now have a new way to make some cash.

On Wednesday, utilities Con Edison and Orange & Rockland announced they have retooled their marquee rewards program for smart” EV charging — and this time, it’s allowing the EVs themselves to take a leading role.

This new version of SmartCharge New York, launched by utility parent company Consolidated Edison and its tech partner, is notable because it will be one of the largest managed-charging” programs in the country powered by telematics — the onboard computers and communications tech inside EVs. That means that instead of relying on an EV charger or custom hardware to monitor and reward drivers for not charging during hours of peak power-grid stress, it will tap technology that’s already built in to the EVs themselves.

This approach could enable more drivers to enroll in the program — an important factor in a state that plans to ban sales of new fossil-fueled vehicles starting in 2035. Managed-charging programs like SmartCharge NY have been shown to help alleviate strain on the grid by paying EV owners to avoid charging at peak times. Such programs are rolling out around the country as EV adoption soars and regional utilities stare down problems stemming from EVs’ increased electricity use.

Tapping into EVs’ onboard tech can simplify things for EV owners in dense urban neighborhoods where it’s harder to install dedicated charging equipment, said Joseph Vellone,’s head of North America. It’s also useful for utilities that want to track and reward the behavior of EV drivers no matter where they happen to be charging, he added.

Most of the utility charging programs out there today connect to EV charging equipment rather than to EVs themselves. But telematics-based smart-charging programs are increasingly being taken up by utilities in the U.S. and beyond, he said. Ongoing work by automakers to beef up their onboard telematics also helps, he noted.

But despite their growing popularity, telematics systems still need some work to become as reliable as utility meters in tracking energy use, however. The vehicle telematics industry is still in its infancy and is sort of working through data reliability issues,” Vellone said. In particular, losing Wi-Fi connectivity can lead to data being lost and rewards being improperly calculated. already manages telematics-based smart-charging programs for utilities including National Grid in Massachusetts, United Illuminating in Connecticut, and community choice aggregators Silicon Valley Clean Energy and MCE (formerly Marin Clean Energy) in California. works with a number of different models of EVs and chargers in New York. The company has integrated its software with the telematics systems of more than 20 automakers, including 15 that have been qualified by Con Edison to participate in SmartCharge New York, he said. The company has also integrated with EV chargers, including Level 2 chargers made by ChargePoint and Enel X Way that are qualified for the SmartCharge NY program, as well as a smart EV charging cord made by Smartenit, which could be useful for owners of EVs that aren’t yet compatible with’s platform.

This is’s entire business,” Vellone said. We’re connecting to as many assets as possible and enabling as many EV drivers as possible to enroll in our programs.” 

The expanding case for telematics-based managed charging 

Early versions of telematics-based programs required drivers to order and install a data-tracking device to monitor EV charging, as Con Ed’s precursor SmartCharge Rewards program did before it ended last year.

Being able to tap the onboard tech of newer EV models should make it easier for more EV drivers to participate, Vellone said. is far from the only EV-charging company thinking along these lines. San Francisco–based startup WeaveGrid is working with utilities including Baltimore Gas & Electric, Xcel Energy in Colorado, Oregon’s Portland General Electric and California’s Pacific Gas & Electric. Some utilities, such as Michigan-based DTE Energy and California’s Sacramento Municipal Utility District, have teamed up directly with automakers, including BMW, Ford and General Motors, to integrate their telematics systems into their in-house managed charging.

Encouraging as many EV drivers as possible to participate in managed-charging programs will be vital for utilities struggling to manage the massive new power draw from EV charging, Vellone said. A 2022 report from McKinsey estimates that charging demand from EVs on U.S. roads will grow from 11 billion kilowatt-hours last year to 230 billion kilowatt-hours in 2030, or roughly 5 percent of current electricity demand.

New York City has already been facing strains on electricity supplies during hot summer evenings. Now it’s also facing the challenge of supplying enough electricity to charge EVs via its congested distribution grid. New York state has set aggressive EV goals, targeting 850,000 EVs on its roads by 2025, in addition to requiring that EVs make up all new light-duty vehicles sold in the state by 2035.

Managed charging could also significantly improve the cost-benefit equation for making the switch to EVs in New York, according to a 2019 study commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

That study found that effective and widespread managed charging could boost the societal benefits of the EV transition from $2.8 billion to $5.1 billion through 2030 as a result of reduced electricity costs and grid upgrades.

The value to EV owners is also significant. SmartCharge New York participants can expect to earn about $400 per year on average, according to the program’s incentive calculator. More frequent drivers, or owners of larger vehicles that require more power to refill their batteries, could earn up to $1,000 per year. Con Edison forecasts that it will spend about $71 million on SmartCharge New York incentives from 2023 to 2025.

SmartCharge New York rewards EV owners for charging when power is more plentiful as well as for avoiding charging during peak hours, he added. Participants get $25 for signing up, $35 per month for each month from June to September during which they completely avoid charging between the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and another $35 reward if they avoid charging during those hours for all four months.

But they also earn money year-round for charging between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m. when grid demand is lowest, with rewards of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour for Con Ed customers and 7 cents per kilowatt-hour for Orange & Rockland customers.

This is not a program where a utility…is actually controlling charging on behalf of the customer,” Vellone stressed. While customers can earn incentives for meeting the program’s targets, they aren’t forced to do so, and they won’t have their charging delayed if they don’t want to.

And as far as any potential reliability issues go, the New York Public Service Commission’s initial order from last year requires utilities to establish customer dispute-resolution processes for any new managed EV charging programs, Vellone noted.

That’s a progressive stance on not allowing some data-reliability issues to block the launch and scaling of these programs,” in his view, particularly given that EV telematics are improving every day.”

At this point, not all utilities allow EVs or EV chargers to directly measure how much energy each vehicle is pulling from the grid to earn financial rewards or bill credits. But more regulators are pushing for utilities to loosen legacy rules, such as requiring that EV owners install secondary meters to measure their EV charging usage, in order to expand the scope of smart-charging programs.

Jeff St. John is director of news and special projects at Canary Media. He covers innovative grid technologies, rooftop solar and batteries, clean hydrogen, EV charging and more.