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Clean Transport

Electric Vehicles Don’t Break The Grid, And They Can Help Boost It

“If everyone came home at the end of the day and plugged in their electric car to charge, the grid would fail.  We will all end up having to live like the Amish. Electric car drivers are just virtue signaling hypocrites as long as there is [insert any number here] fossil fuels powering the grid. The sky is falling,” exclaims Chicken Little. “So it is,” agrees Turkey Lurkey.

Australia has just come out of an energy crisis. Chicken Little and Turkey Lurkey blamed it on the amount of renewable energy in the grid and the number of EVs that were plugged in. It was of course caused by failing coal-fired power stations, compounded by the rise in gas prices due to the Russian war. But you should never miss a good opportunity to spread some FUD and make the weeds grow.

The answer is fairly simple. If every car in the USA, the UK, or Australia was electric, and they all plugged in their cars at the same time at peak hour, the grid definitely wouldn’t handle it. But people don’t do that. First of all, you don’t need to charge your car every day. We charge about 3 times a week. Second, it is more expensive to charge at peak hour. We charge in the evening when the electricity is cheaper. Many homeowners with solar panels charge in the middle of the day when there is excess power from their solar. According to Forbes, “The grids in most developed nations will be just fine, so long as the demand is properly management.” Then they do the maths to show you how it all works.

The greater likelihood is that electric vehicles will be used as power plants on wheels and support the grid. Linked by sophisticated software, they will be programmed to charge when electricity is cheap and discharge a predetermined amount (say 20%) back into the grid when power prices are high. (Related story: “Virtual Power Plants Do More Than Aggregate: They Empower.”)

Tesla Model 3 home charging

Smart charging can help support the grid. Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.

Unfortunately, Tesla vehicles do not have this capacity yet. But many others do. EV batteries could take the place of expensive polluting gas peaker plants.

Another part of the answer is more efficient car design. A large percentage of the energy used to move any vehicle is expended in pushing air out of the way. Some electric cars are starting to look similar from the front, as designers go for minimal drag. Other carmakers, like Alfa Romeo, have vowed that they will keep their original design language (and pay the consequences). Cars currently entering the market are increasing efficiency by design and sometimes the inclusion of solar panels (see: Aptera and Sono Sion).

Fully Charged looked at the possibilities with the US grid here.

And the other issue? Like every other developed country, Australia’s electricity grid is moving rapidly into renewables. As I type up this article, in the middle of the day, Australia’s grid is receiving 50% of its electricity from wind, solar, and hydropower.

Virtue signaling? Or just better at doing the sums? As for Chicken Little and Turkey Lurkey? I guess they can always buy a horse — more environmentally friendly and what you shovel will make your flowers grow.

Featured image courtesy of Ford.

Related story: Sunrun Installs 700,000 Solar Roofs — Partners With Ford For More!

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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