Jason Fenske made a video about how the US grid could cope with a fleet of 230 million EVs if all of them were electric. His conclusions show the challenges that lie before the US grid with a massive EV adoption. Yet, the benefits that would bring are what really caught our attention. The Engineering Explained video just shows their tip.
As Fenske reasons, there are 230 million people with driver’s licenses in the US. The average distance they travel per year is 13,500 miles. That means people drive 3,105 trillion miles in the US every year.
The average energy consumption for EVs, based on EPA numbers, would be around 100 MPGe. In other words, each EV would spend about 33.7 kWh per 100 miles. That’s how much energy a gallon of gasoline contains.
EPA’s idea with that metric was to allow customers to compare electric cars with combustion-engined vehicles, which measure their fuel consumption in MPG. According to the EPA, the most recent average is for the 2019 cars, which would be 24.9 MPG. Just remember that all vehicles are included here, which means hybrids, PHEVs, and EVs helped bring this number down.
Based on EPA data, Fenske calculated that if all US drivers had electric cars, they would spend 1 trillion kWh per year in energy. Sadly, he did not mention how much combustion-engined vehicles spend on a similar interval, but we will.
Using the favorable number of 24.9 MPG, a US fleet using only gasoline would spend 129,166,666 gallons of fuel per year. Convert that to energy, and cars consume about 4,353 trillion kWh, more than four times what EVs demand. And that can be even worse for ICE vehicles.
Edmunds recently made tests with EVs and reinforced the impression that the EPA range is not as trustworthy as most would believe. None of the five Teslas tested achieved its EPA range, as well as the Polestar 2.
Using Edmunds’ numbers as a reference, the lowest energy consumption would be 20.8 kWh/100 miles, and the highest would be 38.2 kWh/100 miles. Let’s imagine the average is 30 kWh/100 miles.
Using this number instead of the 100 MPGe Fenske adopted, the energy consumption would be 0.93 trillion kWh, or 70 billion kWh less. If all the US electric cars needed 20 kWh/100 miles, that energy consumption would fall to 620 billion kWh, or 0.62 trillion kWh.
The money Americans didn’t spend on fuel would remain in their pockets. Only 25 percent of the US car fleet's current energy use would already fulfill the current driving needs they have. The country would not burn at least 129,166,666 gallons of gasoline per year.
Fenske mentioned that people would better not charge all EVs simultaneously to avoid frying the electric grid but argued that there is no need for that to happen. People can charge their cars late at night or in the early hours of a day – when energy demand is lower.
What we missed in the video was a little more time on the smart grid question, which is something unique to electric cars. When the grid needs power – or any region has a power shortage for any reason – their battery packs can help restore energy or just prevent the power lines from going down.
With smart grids, EVs can also help store energy generated by solar and wind power, allowing their owners to use it at night or sell it to power companies when they need it the most.
It may take a while for the hurdles in the way of a more significant EV adoption in the US. Imagine getting 23 billion kWh in battery packs for the 230 million drivers to have at least 100 kWh of juice available...
Yet, Fenske pointed out that the grid will probably not be the issue. If that were the case, Norway would likely be facing a power crisis, and we recently wrote that this is far from the truth there.
The more powerful obstacle for that to happen probably relates to everyone that attack EVs without even realizing they are the best way to ensure personal transportation. It’s either them or a bicycle for the ones willing to avoid crowded buses and trains, especially in times.