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The Macho Springs wind and solar farm near Nutt, New Mexico. Photo by Jennifer Sensiba.

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What The FUDsters Got Wrong About “Don’t Charge” Notices in California

If you know me much, you probably know that the State of California and I don’t always see eye to eye on things. But, whatever differences we may have over the contents of my purse on road trips, I’m not one of those people who’s looking to bash the state at every opportunity. The people who are like that have been sharing a lot of memes and news articles lately that roughly resembles the following semi-literate screed:

HEY,,,,,,, DID YA HEAR BOUT COMMIEFORNIA TELLING PEOPLE THEY HAVE TO HAVE AN ELECTRIC,,,,,,CAR BY 2035??? NOW THEIR TELLIN PEOPLE,,,,,,THEY CANT CHARGE THEIR TELSA HEY,,,,HOW R YA GONNA MAKE PEOPLE BY ELECTRIC CAR WHEN THE GRIDS OVERLOAD, HUH? CHECK MATE,,,,,, LIBS!

Yeah, that’s probably not entirely accurate. My spelling and punctuation were far too good, but you get the point. Recent power troubles during record heat in the Golden State led to electric companies telling people to not charge their electric vehicles. Even worse, it’s not great optics to see this news happen not long after major news networks ran stories about the upcoming electric car mandate.

But, as usual, the devil is in the details, and details don’t make for great memes and political posts on the ol’ Farcebark.

The Upcoming EV Mandate Is Being Misrepresented

Before we get to the issue of the power grid, let’s take a look at the EV mandate. Yes, it mandates that EVs be sold instead of combustion machines. There’s also a date attached to this mandate. But, there’s a whole lot more to it than that.

You can get all of the details here, but let’s take a look at a few things the FUDsters aren’t sharing about the upcoming mandate:

  • The mandate doesn’t kick in fully until 2025, leaving over a decade for grid providers to make upgrades.
  • Even in 2035, the mandate only applies to new vehicles sold in the state. Used combustion cars will still be around for a long time, even after 2035.
  • It doesn’t appear that a dealer in Yuma, Vegas, or Reno will be prohibited from selling a gas car to Californians and registering it. Only cars delivered in California are subject to the requirement.
  • Up to 20% of deliveries can be plugin hybrids in 2035 and after, and those can run on gas or grid power.

Any thinking person looking at the above facts will figure out pretty quickly that there isn’t a magic date in 2035 where all of today’s cars will get hit with some kind of magic spell that turns them all into EVs, which would quickly overload the 2022 power grid. Change both between now and 2035 and after 2035 will be gradual.

But, The Grid’s Already Overloaded!

Let’s add a few more facts to that part of the argument, too, shall we?

First, let’s look at what it took for California officials to ask people to not charge their EVs. It took a record heat wave that produced record temperatures, which in turn got a lot of people turning up the air conditioning. In other words, it took the hottest temperatures some parts of the state have ever seen for this to happen. Any grid (<coughs>Texas</coughs>) would have issues under record conditions.

But, even then, the request to not charge EVs didn’t go on for days or weeks. The time when the grid was overloaded was mere hours. Anti-renewables people like to remind us that “the sun doesn’t always shine,” and when it comes to record heat, all of that heat comes from the sun. When the sun goes down, so does the heat. When the heat goes down, so does the air conditioning demand. When all the AC compressors aren’t running, the strain on the grid goes down, too.

Ask any EV driver when they charge, and most of them will give you the same answer: at night. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to charge an EV during peak hours when it costs more per kWh to charge it up. Instead, people like to charge their cars during off peak, or even “super off peak” hours to save money. It also makes sense for the car to be sitting still and charging up when you’re sitting still and getting rest in your bed.

So, even if the record heat came again, it’s not going to affect most EV drivers that much. The few who absolutely need to charge during peak hours can still do that because everyone else does the right thing and cuts back power use or waits until it makes sense to charge anyway.

Plus, it’s important to keep in mind that the grid is always pretty fully loaded during peak hours, and it’s always been this way. It makes almost zero sense for power companies to spend money building infrastructure for power their customers aren’t demanding. So, the market provides what we want when we want it.

The Grid Has Grown, & Will Keep Growing

If we put today’s electrical demand on the electrical grid of the year 2000, that grid would fail spectacularly. If we put 2000’s power demand on the 1990 grid, that grid would likewise fail.

You see, the grid isn’t some static, monolithic abstract concept that magically moves electrical power from its sources to its destinations. It has always been growing, expanding, and upgrading to suit new demands as they happened. To pretend that the 2022 electrical grid is all there will ever be is not only foolish, but ignorant of history and the industry.

When people want to buy more electricity, producers and grid providers will take that money and give you the power in all but the most extreme circumstances that you wouldn’t be willing to pay more to cover anyway.

And, this is all before we consider the impact of home solar, battery storage, and other semi-grid-independent technologies you can get today. There’s also V2G (vehicle-to-grid) technology that can enlist EVs to not only not be a burden on the grid, but give power back to the grid during peak emergency demand to keep it afloat (and their owners will be compensated, too).

So, the sky isn’t falling. Environmentalist “libs” aren’t destroying the automotive industry and the power grid simultaneously, and the answer (as usual) isn’t to return to the 1950s and bring Boomer childhoods back. Things are moving forward, even if they don’t work in a worst-case once-in-a-century scenario that lasts for a few hours on a few days.

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.

 
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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things: https://twitter.com/JenniferSensiba

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