Is the Grid Really Ready for an Onslaught of Electric Vehicles?
(Joseph Gottlieb, CTO, Thursday, April 2, 2020)
If you read our last blog, you heard some of the reasons that, despite the economic impact of COVID-19, electric vehicle (EV) sales are expected to continue to grow, and at a significantly faster rate than internal combustion (IC) vehicles. Certainly from an air pollution standpoint, this is a great development. However, what happens when all of these vehicles get plugged into a decades-old electric utility grid that wasn’t built to support hundreds of millions of vehicles charging during what is now peak load time? Turns out that the answer depends on a variety of factors, one of the most important being where you want to put your charging station – in the city or in rural areas (like around interstate highways).
A 2018 US Department of Energy study forecasted that the widespread adoption of EVs could increase electric power consumption by up to 38% by 2050 (see map below). Even if the generation capacity exists (either through the increased use of photovoltaic power, or by building new power plants), the problem in cities is one of getting the power to the right places. This can have an impact on everything from the powerline capacity within the city to a need for higher-capacity transformers and substations. For rural areas, a recent UK article on the subject pointed out the difficulties that charging network operators along motorways in rural areas are having getting adequate power to run their charging stations. While this this could be a big boon for electric utilities, it also presents significant concern about approach this problem from a “top-down” perspective – simply increasing power generation (which utilities are fairly good at) probably doesn’t get the job done.
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