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Plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging could cause significant strain on residential distribution systems, unless technologies and incentives are created to mitigate charging during times of peak residential consumption. This paper describes and evaluates a decentralized and “packetized” approach to PEV charge management, in which PEV charging is requested and approved for time-limited periods. This method, which is adapted from approaches for bandwidth sharing in communication networks, simultaneously ensures that constraints in the distribution network are satisfied, that communication bandwidth requirements are relatively small, and that each vehicle has fair access to the available power capacity. This paper compares the performance of the packetized approach to an optimization method and a first-come, first-served (FCFS) charging scheme in a test case with a constrained 500 kVA distribution feeder and time-of-use residential electricity pricing. The results show substantial advantages for the packetized approach. The algorithm provides all vehicles with equal access to constrained resources and attains near optimal travel cost performance, with low complexity and communication requirements. The proposed method does not require that vehicles report or record driving patterns, and thus provides benefits over optimization approaches by preserving privacy and reducing computation and bandwidth requirements.