Don’t Worry: US Grid Capable of Supporting Up to 150 Million Electric Vehicles

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 17

Ultimate Evolution Of The Smart Grid?

Ultimate Evolution Of The Smart Grid?

Consider this the definitive answer to the question of whether or not the US electrical grid is capable of handling an influx of electric vehicles.

More Than Capable...No Need to Worry

More Than Capable…No Need to Worry

The US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory calculated that the grid’s excess capacity will support over 150 million pure electric vehicles.

150 million means that nearly 75% of the vehicles on our roads today could be electric and the grid would have the capacity to support them all.

There’s a slight catch though.  That 150 million figure assume that the electric vehicles are dispersed in a certain way throughout the country, meaning that where significant excess capacity exists, lots of electric vehicles get supported by the grid there.

In some region, excess capacity is limited.  So, in those areas, an influx of electric vehicles would overload the grid.

The capacity is there though.  It’s all about distribution or getting the power to where it’s needed.  It may be tricky to predict where the power needs to go, but the kinks will get worked out, especially if the utility companies act first before an issues arises.

150 million electric vehicles.  The grid can handle them, so bring ’em on.

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17 responses to "Don’t Worry: US Grid Capable of Supporting Up to 150 Million Electric Vehicles"

  1. Martin T says:

    & Even more if EV’s were charged up during the day with solar energy!

    Nice to drive on sun power as well.

  2. Anderlan says:

    150 million * 20kwh = 3 thousand TeraWatt-hours of excess capacity. Because, as the Luddites say, deploying excess renewable plant is a waste of resources because it doesn’t perfectly match demand. Either their stupid, or their lying, one or the other.

    1. Anderlan says:

      I wasn’t as explicit in that comment as I need to be: 3 thousand TWh of excess present *fossil* and *nuclear* capacity on the current grid. Which is supposedly perfect as compared to renewables on the future grid. Hyprocisy.

    2. Anderlan says:

      Also, apparently, 3 thousand TeraWatt-hours PER DAY!!

      MOD NOTE: I think I got your edits right, lol (J.Cole)

      1. Mint says:

        20 kWh per day implies EVs doing ~25,000 miles a year. That’s not very realistic.

        The proper way to calculate this is dividing annual mileage (let’s say 14k miles per year) by 3.5 miles/kWh, or 4000 kWh/yr * 150M. That’s 600 TWh.

        Annual electricity production is ~4000 TWh, with a lot of unused capacity at night when EVs do most of their charging. PNNL’s numbers sound right to me.

  3. Assaf says:

    Eric,

    Can you provide a link to the DOE report?

    Thanks!

  4. Ocean Railroader says:

    Isn’t solar power destroying the grid do to people using a lot less power from the grid so in away electric cars would be a good thing for power companies depending on how they handle it in terms of giving them friendly power pricing. If they don’t they will speed up the number of people buying solar panels.

    1. Assaf says:

      I think most home rooftop PV systems in the US are grid-connected. In fact, unless you invest a few more grand which most people don’t do AFAIK, you cannot even use your roof’s electricity directly – it can only be poured straight into the grid, from which you take electricity back as you did before having PV.

      You get compensated for your production in the bill.

      So those grid-connected PV systems cannot possibly “destroy the grid”, they are part of it. Anyone cares to correct me if I’m wrong?

      1. scott moore says:

        Yes, you could start a program to collect and give money directly to the power companies, and they would still tell you it costs them too much to come pick the money up, and so they need to increase kwh rates.

        Its just what they do. In fact, its what all monopolies do.

      2. io says:

        @Assaf: yes, most PV systems are “grid-tied” in the sense that, like a mini power plant, whatever they produce is fed to the grid, to be used immediately locally or elsewhere, without going through e.g. batteries.

        The one on my roof, as I suspect is the case for most residential installations, is simply connected to “my” side of the meter. It basically pumps electricity into the house electrical system, with the excess, if any, flowing back into the grid, through the meter, which in such case spins backwards.
        The meter only registers the difference between what I use and what I generate, which is what I get billed for (or, in my case, credit for, as the PV system produces slightly more than I use overall).

        The alternative would be to have two meters, one to measure solar production, and one local power consumption. This is more expensive to install, but may be required for larger installations (e.g. commercial), or generally when pricing for generation and consumption differ.

        @Ocean: solar certainly won’t “destroy” the grid. If anything, distributed, local generation actually helps by lightening the load on transmission equipment.
        In Germany, for briefs periods, solar has been providing over 50% of the whole country’s power with no ill effect. http://www.treehugger.com/energy-policy/half-germany-was-powered-solar.html
        As noted in the article, the US is very, very far behind.
        Abundant solar may eventually cause utilities to retire incentives and revise their rates structures however (ie, have peak rates move towards the evening, apply a monthly minimum or grid connection fee, etc).

        @scott: you might have missed the fact that utilities, as monopolies, are heavily regulated and can’t just raise prices. Even when their generation costs shoot up, as was made painfully obvious in 2001 when a Californian utility, PG&E, collapsed as a result.

        1. Ocean Railroader says:

          PG&E broke apart do to it becoming apart of Enon which played money and stock games with it that ripped it apart. It is a part of the documentary movie called the Smartest Guys in the Room which is about the formation of Enon and how it broke apart and took a lot of people’s money and PG&E along with the California power blackouts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron:_The_Smartest_Guys_in_the_Room

          Another thing coming up with solar power is battery storage which is becoming more and more possible each and every year.

          1. Jesse Gurr says:

            PG&E went bankrupt because Enron played the California electric market like a boss. Bulk electric prices at the time were at $340/MWh and Enron manipulated the market to get upwards of $2,500/MWh. As I understand it, Enron owned some generators in the newly deregulated electric market and would shut them off(or pretend to have problems) during peak times creating a problem of not having enough generation. As a result, bulk electric prices went up because of supply/demand. They then turned on generation somewhere else to get those high prices.

            How long do you think your business would last if it had to sell a kWh for less than you paid to get it. Not too long and that was what happened to PG&E, and it almost happened to SCE and SDG&E.

    2. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      No, solar and wind power’s problem is that due to being intermittent:
      – they have relatively expensive transmission requirements
      – they need reliable back-up.

      It’s inappropriate market pricing that’s really upsetting utilities. What’s needed is to separate pricing of the infrastructure, use and feed-in. Infrastructural cost is largely fixed and based on your peak demand/feed-in, while usage is very much supply and PV feed-in should be based on spot prices with a bonus for being local and thus reducing transmission losses from large suppliers.

      Electric cars would be good for both fossil fuel/fission generation and renewables because they’re a huge potential demand sink. Just with managed charging (_not_ V2G, which would be more expensive and less reliable) they could both “fill in the bathtub” at night to allow more 24/7 baseline and allow better renewable utilization.

  5. Rick says:

    I love the title, “Don’t Worry etc”. Don’t worry, I wasn’t worried. 🙂

  6. scott moore says:

    Actually, connecting that many batteries to the grid and soaking up overnight generation capacity would greatly improve the grid. The power companies should be having orgasms over this stuff.

  7. miimura says:

    I will happily accept a rate reduction or per kWh credit for allowing the utility to manage how much power my EV draws from the grid between 6pm and 8am as long as they allow a minimum of 30kWh to flow through between those hours.

  8. Bill Howland says:

    Household, or Small Business Solar power wont be the slightest bit detrimental to the utility business since the greatest output is at a time when the air conditioning and/or business load is highest. I can’t conceive of there being so much solar power generated that utilities don’t know what to do with it.

    The Canadian Province of Ontario’s ultra generous Can$.80 / kwh payment for renewables may bankrupt someone, however. Well intentioned overly generous governmental transfer payments always make winners and losers.