- Electric cars won’t overwhelm the US grid anytime soon, according to energy and transportation experts.
- Electric vehicles don’t consume much energy right now, and it will be decades before electric cars fully take over.
- Electric vehicles can be recharged when it is most convenient for the grid and can even store energy for the future.
Battery-powered Teslas, Fords and Volkswagens are not about to overwhelm America’s electrical grid, despite what Tucker Carlson and some republican politicians to say.
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Last month, electric vehicle skeptics had a field day when California utility customers pressed to save energy during a scorching heat wave by not charging their cars during certain hours. Some conservatives wonder how the state plans to ban the sale of combustion-engine cars by 2035 if it cannot cope with the number of electric vehicles on the road today.
On his Fox News show, Carlson dismissed electric cars as a “new way to overload California’s already collapsing power grid.”
Energy and transportation experts disagree.
More connected electric cars will increase energy demand over time, requiring a more robust network and smarter charging habits, they say. But there is no immediate cause for alarm. With careful planning, there will be plenty of electricity to circulate.
Electric vehicles could one day make the grid stronger and more resilient.
Electric vehicles are not a big waste of energy
Although California has more electric cars than any other state, they only account for 0.4% of total peak-hour energy consumption. Even according to 2030 estimates, around 5.6 million electric cars, trucks and vans would only account for 4% of peak loads.
“Saying that they are what overloads the network ignores 99.6% of today’s challenge,” said Max Baumhefner, senior adviser to the National Resources Defense Council, in a recent blog post.
Although electric vehicle sales are increasing, Americans keep their cars for 12 years on average, so it will be a long time before the entire American fleet changes.
The Rocky Mountain Institute, a sustainability research group, predicts that total energy demand in the United States will increase by 1% to 2% per year due to the adoption of electric cars. This is comparable to the increase utilities saw during the energy consumption booms of the 20th century, with the proliferation of refrigeration and air conditioning, the group said.
“Load growth is something that some utilities haven’t had to deal with for a while, but it’s generally within the range of what utilities can plan and manage,” said Chaz Teplin, director of RMI, adding that the biggest challenge will be to be the country’s transition to renewable energy sources.
Still, network upgrades will be needed to handle the added load, experts say. According to a 2020 study by the Brattle Group, 20 million light electric vehicles on US roads by 2030 will require $45 billion to $75 billion of investment in more robust energy generation, distribution and storage.
Electric vehicles are particularly flexible
Unlike a refrigerator that needs to keep food cold 24/7 or an air conditioner that can consume energy for hours on a hot day, a typical electric car can be parked 23 hours a day. This gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of when they are billed.
Shifting charging to times that are most beneficial to the grid – such as at night when demand is low or during the day when solar output is high – can significantly reduce peak grid stress even as demand increases. of vehicles.
“There’s a lot we can do in the near future with the network we already have,” Nick Nigro, founder of Atlas Public Policy, a transportation-focused consultancy, told Insider.
RMI sees the recent California heat wave as proof that managed charging is working: People have adjusted their habits and the state has avoided blackouts.
If drivers keep charging whenever they want, “that means we have to build an extremely robust network,” said Matthias Preindl, a professor of electrical engineering at Columbia University. But smart grid technology that tells vehicles when to recharge can work wonders for handling spikes and negating the need for infrastructure upgrades in many areas, he said. Some dealerships have smart charging programs, but these are not yet common.
A recent study of the 2035 electric vehicle ecosystem found that encouraging people to charge during the day could save billions of dollars in energy storage investments in western states. Increasing solar generation will require batteries to store electricity for nighttime use, but daytime charging reduces that need.
In the future, electric vehicles will be able to support the grid
Some experts envision a future where electric vehicles can bolster electrical grids if used intelligently. Vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, technology would transform connected electric cars into a distributed battery system that could help utilities store electricity in the event of an emergency or excess demand.
That future is far away, but automakers are interested in adjacent technologies. The Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck can act as a backup generator and power a home for up to three days, for example.
Preindl said V2G will be essential for storing energy generated by wind and solar energy and for the United States’ transition to clean energy sources. “If all cars are electric, the amount of energy storage we have access to is enormous,” he said.