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How Are Electric Vehicles Affecting the Grid?

Shannon Flynn
Shannon Flynn
May 25, 2022
How Are Electric Vehicles Affecting the Grid?

The electric vehicle market is growing fast — and advances in battery technology are helping improve EV range and make them more affordable. 

However, electronic vehicles may impact the grid as they become more accessible. EV charging may significantly increase electricity demand. There’s already some evidence that electric vehicles are straining the grid, making changes necessary.

How Do EVs Affect Power Grid Performance?

It’s easy to see the potential impact of electric vehicles on the power grid in areas with major EV adoption and vice versa. For example, Austin, Texas, recently expanded its public transportation fleet with 12 new electric buses. In 2021, these buses were temporarily rendered inoperable during a statewide power outage. 

EVs may also be less reliable than gas-powered vehicles in states where grid infrastructure is unreliable. However, a long-enough power outage will also knock gas infrastructure offline, preventing owners from fueling their conventional cars.

When California faced one of the worst heatwaves on record, grid officials asked residents to conserve power by holding off on charging EVs, along with other activities, like using major appliances.

For the most part, experts believe EV use isn’t likely to cause significant grid failure. However, the growing adoption of the vehicles will require new investment in America’s aging power infrastructure. Boston Consulting Group estimates that a model utility company would need to “invest between $1,700 and $5,800 in grid upgrades per EV through 2030.”

These investments would increase available energy and prevent local grid strain as demand for electricity rises.

Significant investment in charging infrastructure will also be required. Companies that manufacture charging stations and equipment are receiving massive amounts of funding. In one case, Blink Charging Co. secured $254.6 million in a public offering, funds the company will use to deploy new stations and acquire EV charging technology.

Use the Optiwatt app to decrease the influence on the power grid. The app can analyze your driving habits and charge your car at the lowest electricity rates. Besides, this also will reduce your carbon footprint during charges.

Impact of Electric Vehicles on the Power Grid

EVs only make up around 2% of all cars on American roads, but the Department of Energy predicts that the share could grow to as much as 15% by 2030. EVs could come to dominate the auto market over the next few decades. 

How much would more electricity be needed if all cars were electric? Experts say energy consumption would need to increase by around 25%, though population growth could impact this figure. For comparison, due to Reuters, U.S. energy growth grew by just 1% in 2022. This change may happen slowly enough that grid operators have time to adapt.

More importantly, EVs could help the grid work better by supporting it and improving infrastructure whenever they’re plugged in.  

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How do electric vehicles provide grid support? Grid operators and EV manufacturers could use different strategies, including using these cars as mobile grid batteries. EVs could send energy back to the grid using “vehicle-to-everything” (V2X) technology. 

This allows owners to power their homes via chargers or sell energy back to grid operators, depending on current demand levels. As a result, EVs could make the grid more flexible. 

Grid operators worldwide are struggling somewhat with the transition to renewable energy. Sustainable sources like wind and solar can’t adapt to demands as easily as fossil fuel power plants. As a result, grid operators need to store energy that can be released to customers as energy demand changes over a day.

These operators are investing in massive storage facilities that use grid-scale batteries to store energy — like a Tesla-backed energy storage system at Moss Landing in California. EVs could potentially support these facilities, providing a smaller-scale repository that grid operators could utilize. 

How Will Electric Cars Affect the Power Grid?

We could see grid operators begin to struggle as electric vehicle adoption accelerates. In America, the aging grid infrastructure may be unable to keep up with the increased demand from EV owners, especially during weather events like snowstorms and heat waves.

At the same time, EVs may help the grid work more effectively. Using them as portable batteries allows grid operators to store better and distribute energy where it’s needed.

Fuel your savings. Spend 70% or less with every charge!

Shannon Flynn
Shannon Flynn

Managing Editor, ReHack

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