As planning for the arrival of plug-in cars accelerates, electric utilities need to know which of their customers intend to hook their vehicle up to the power grid every day.

Now Southern California Edison, the 123-year-old electric utility that serves 5 million customers in and around Los Angeles, is asking them directly. The company has launched a new section on its website to survey its users on their electric-car intentions.

How much do you know?

For SCE, the most important section may be a survey for customers intending to buy plug-in cars. It asks how familiar users are with electric vehicles, how likely they are to buy one, and how and when they think they would recharge it.

Beyond the survey, the site offers background material on electric transport. One section covers how to "Get Plug-In Ready": understand the types of plug-ins, notify the utility as soon as possible, and review rate plans for the power used to recharge the car.

Southern California Edison - Plug-In Electric Vehicle website

Southern California Edison - Plug-In Electric Vehicle website

Rate options

SCE offers three rate plans for plug-in owners.  First, and simplest, is just to add the plug-in's load to a standard electric plan. But that may not be smart; California utilities encourage conservation by charging more per kilowatt-hour for usage higher than a household's average.

Then there are two "time of use" options. One offers cheaper power to the whole house when demand is lowest (at night). The other cuts the off-peak rate just for the power used to recharge a plug-in, but the owner must install a separate electric meter in the garage.

Planning ahead

Finally, the site also covers SCE's work on planning for the future, in which more plug-in vehicles will gradually add to its load while improving energy efficiency and cutting vehicle emissions.

SCE has been in the forefront of planning for electric vehicles since the early 1990s. Its director of electric transportation, Ed Kjaer, is well known in the industry and speaks far and wide on the benefits of driving on grid power.

Southern California Edison provided air travel and lodgings to journalists from several websites, including High Gear Media, to enable them to tour its Electric Vehicle Technology Center.