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If Thanksgiving Didn’t Break the Grid, then Neither Will EVs

By Assaf Oron

Having followed media stories about EVs for ~10 years, I’m familiar ad nauseum with all the well-worn anti-EV tropes.

With my very teeny megaphone, I’ve done my little bit to try and dispel them over the years. In 2015, I went on record in a scientific journal, countering the misguided EV footprint analysis published by a leading environmental-health research team. Theirs was a classic case of “garbage in, garbage out” analysis. The transport mode they claimed was overall “healthier” than EVs (only when using garbage numbers, of course) was none other than “clean diesel.” The virtual ink had barely dried on the kerfuffle when “clean diesel” was outed as a criminal Volkswagen hoax.

The same year, I also countered the media derision and handwringing about most EVs at the time having short range and costing more than gas-powered vehicles. As I wrote, “Never Show a Fool a Job Half-Done” — it’s silly to critique let alone dismiss a rapidly-evolving new tech over its current specs while ignoring its potential and its proven rate of improvement.

All these points have been vindicated bigly. Now, when Americans can get an electric Ford F-150 for a competitive price, let alone smaller beasts — and when most of the world’s governments have put their foot down firmly in favor of EVs being the way to go vs. the climate crisis — those once-dominant anti-EV tropes are being relegated to the fringe.

Sadly, there are still trillions of dollars in vested fossil interests looking to delay and derail the EV transition by any means possible. Confusing and serious-sounding media spin remains a great way for them to do that. So, suddenly, we are hearing more and more: “how, possibly, can the electric grid sustain all those EVs?

Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect occasion for countering this spin.

This weekend, tens of millions of American households baked their holiday turkey. Getting a turkey properly cooked requires at least 3–4 hours of continuous baking. Do you know your oven’s power consumption? Does anyone really care? Well, in case you’ve never checked, in the US it’s typically some 40A on 240V, or ~10kW.

Besides turkey-cooking, Thanksgiving also marks a time when Americans spend long days and nights together indoors. In much of the country, the weather is cold, so heating is required. According to the latest EIA survey, 40% of US households use electricity for heating, a number that’s sure to rise. So, at the same time that they are baking their turkeys, millions of households also draw a substantial number of kilowatts to keep themselves comfortable.

Have you ever heard utilities warn Americans not to all cook their turkeys at the same time? Or to stagger the cooking and the heating? Or media stories about how Thanksgiving electricity needs felled the grid? I have never heard of such a story; likely because this level of consumption, even for several hours straight, is not a serious threat upon the grid.

Now, standard medium/high-end home EV chargers draw 6–7kW, substantially less than your cooking oven. Although there’s some trend to move towards ~10kW chargers, most households probably won’t need that rate. This is because most home EV charging can easily take place overnight, plenty enough time for 6–7kW to charge most EVs from nearly empty to nearly full.

Of course, overnight is also when the rest of electricity consumption is at its lowest, placing far less stress on the grid than that nationwide turkey-baking fest we’ve just gone through.

This is before we even talk about cutting down on the huge amounts of electricity waste going on in the US — e.g., excessive summer cooling and winter heating, and incandescent/halogen lamp use refusing to die. And we haven’t mentioned the substantial grid-stabilizing potential of vehicle-to-grid EV charging.

In short: enjoy the leftovers from your traditional Thanksgiving dinner or vegetarian/vegan alternative Thanksgiving dinner, and don’t let anti-EV spin dampen your holiday spirit.

Featured image courtesy of Ford

 
 
 
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