Busting the “electric cars will destroy the grid” myth

The news and the internet are full of stories about how electric cars will destroy the power grid. Here’s how that argument works: 1) A few weeks ago, California announced that the sale of passenger cars and light trucks with gasoline or diesel engines would be banned starting in 2035. 2) Last week, CAISO, which manages the power grid, warned that a punishing heat wave had pushed electricity demand to record highs and blackouts could follow if demand was not reduced. In less than 30 minutes, the California Office of Emergency Services sent text messages to millions of California residents, urging them to turn off their electrical appliances if possible and reduce non-essential energy use.

The OES suggested setting air conditioners a few degrees higher, turning off electric clothes dryers and not charging electric cars during the emergency. Bloomberg picks up the story from there. “And just like that, the problem was solved. Within five minutes, the network emergency was all but over.

End of story, right? No. Reactionaries quickly started shouting and saying how stupid California was for mandating electric cars and then telling people not to charge them. Yeah, it’s a real knee-jerk, that is. What these masterminds have not ceased to consider is that the ICE ban is 13 years in the future, while the emergency lasted 5 minutes. Can we all just breathe?

Lessons learned about the electric car

Axios says, “Electric vehicles are not what are straining the grid. California had about 680,000 registered electric vehicles as of July 1, according to S&P Global Mobility, which represents less than 1% of the state’s total electricity demand. Even if there are 5 million electric vehicles by 2030, they will account for about 7% of annual electricity consumption and 1% of peak demand, according to the California Air Resources Board.

Indeed, according to Yahoo finance, the cause of the grid emergency was a faulty pricing mechanism that determines when grid storage batteries begin sending electricity to the grid. As a result, these batteries began to discharge in the middle of the afternoon when there was still plenty of solar power and other supplies available to meet the electricity demand. This in turn depleted the amount of stored electricity before it was no longer needed by early evening.

Still, the batteries managed to deliver nearly 2,700 megawatts of power — just over two-thirds of the total capacity — between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., when the extra juice was really needed. “The way batteries work on the grid, we’re still on a steep learning curve,” said Severin Borenstein, professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley and CAISO Board of Governors member. “We’re still learning the right way to incorporate them.”

Manage electric car charging

What people who laugh about the danger electric cars pose to the grid don’t understand is that electric vehicles can recharge when the time is right. It’s not because a car is plugged in not means it draws electricity from the grid.

Every electric car sold in America allows owners to schedule the start and end of charging. Many EV chargers are connected to the Internet, which allows them to find the cheapest electricity, usually between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. They can also be programmed to react to notifications from grid operators to stop charging when electricity demand is high.

There is another side to the story that many people ignore and few understand. Electric cars are on the verge of a disruptive new technology known as vehicle-to-grid, or V2G. It allows the car battery to feed electricity back into the grid when demand is high. The promise of V2G is that it will enable all those electric cars that cause so much fear and terror to stabilize the grid and prevent outages rather than causing them. How about that?

Just last week, Fermata launched a two-way EV charger that allows a Nissan LEAF to operate in V2G or V2H (vehicle to home) mode. According to Nissan, “The Nissan LEAF is currently the only fully electric passenger vehicle on the U.S. market capable of delivering power to the grid, allowing LEAF owners with the Fermata Energy FE-15 two-way charger to park their vehicle, plug it in, and save money with their local electric utility while reducing the total cost of vehicle ownership.” Oh, and by the way, using the Fermata charger will not affect the battery warranty from the manufacturer.

The result ? In 13 years, far from threatening the network, the electric car will be an essential component of a new, more resilient network, capable of meeting all the expectations of utility customers (those who are not already off-grid with rooftop or systems community solar panels of their own).

It is important to understand that owners have full control over V2G or V2H systems. They can decide when the local utility can tap the energy stored in their batteries, for how long, and set the maximum amount of energy that can be withdrawn before the system is disconnected. If they don’t want to participate, they don’t have to.

WeaveGrid and electric cars

WeaveGrid is a San Francisco-based startup that creates software to connect electric vehicle drivers to the grid. According fast business, it’s working with Pacific Gas & Electric to pilot a program that pays drivers to enroll their cars in smart charging. “We are talking about thousands of drivers,” says CEO Apoorv Bhargava. “So that’s a pretty huge amount of load that we’re going to be moving off the peak.”

It’s similar to “virtual power plant” software in homes, which can help automatically adjust thermostats or run appliances at the best times to keep the grid running in the face of growing challenges from climate change. The software takes into account the risk of forest fires and ensures that when a shutdown is planned, the electric cars are charged in advance.

“As renewables become more important in power generation, you’ll see spikes – it’s not like before with coal-fired power plants or nuclear power plants, where the amount of electricity produced is more or less uniform over time,” says Heta Gandhi, a PhD. student at the University of Rochester who studied how charging the vehicle to the grid can benefit both the grid and the drivers. “It depends on how much wind we have or how much sun we have. When there are these spikes, you can charge your electric vehicle and it can act as a storage device. »

Bhargava says, “Our goal here in the business is to make sure electric vehicles won’t be a challenge to the grid. Yes, electric vehicles are a massive new type of charging. But what we’re trying to enable is that they can become a really powerful asset to the network, rather than a liability. If cars charge when there is additional renewable energy available, for example, grid operators can avoid curtailing wind or solar power.

“This is the first moment in the history of the automotive industry and the electrical industry where they’ve moved from two independent systems to one integrated system,” he says. “Cars will now depend on the electricity grid, and vice versa. The electricity grid will very quickly become dependent on the valuable services that vehicles can provide. And wait and see what wonders electric school buses can do once they’re parked up at the end of the school day and hooked up to the grid.

Takeaway meals

On the reddit EV Forum recently a user asked if there seems to be more anti-EV FUD than usual and the answer is yes. A disgraced former president jumped on the bandwagon this week. You wonder why ? Because the fossil fuel industry is terrified by the changes that electric cars will bring. Instead of preparing for the new reality, they spend huge sums of money to get their sycophants to spew out every ridiculous argument they can think of – no matter how absurd.

The truth is that electric cars will be vital to the future health and resilience of the grid. Embrace the future, people. You have nothing to fear except fear itself.

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