Can the Power Grid Handle Electric Cars?EV skeptics sometime point out that "our power grid can't handle electric cars". They might be right if all cars were magically transformed into plug-ins overnight, but the chances of that happening are pretty slim (though it would make for a nice xmas miracle!). No, if the changeover is gradual, everything that I've been reading on the topic for the past few years tells me that the power grid should be able to adapt just fine. In fact, since electric vehicles are mostly recharged at night - during the off-peak period for the power grid - their impact is a lot more manageable than, say, big screen TVs, which are all on during the power grid's peak.
EVs A-ok: Straight from the Guy in Charge
While I don't stay up at night worrying about whether the grid can handle plug-ins, I think it's always good to get more confirmation from people who know what they're talking about. The latest bit of evidence in favor of plug-ins not being a problem comes from Trip Doggett, the CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – which oversees the state’s electric grid.
On Tuesday he told lawmakers on the Senate Natural Resources Committee that he doesn’t believe even widespread adoption of electric vehicles would have any negative effect on the transmission system.
Doggett offered it was possible that there could be some localized disruption to electric distribution if electric cars become widely adopted in some electricity markets.
“The localized distribution companies may have some localized challenges as electric vehicles are located within neighborhoods,” Doggett said. “In the long term there could be some impact to our resource adequacy challenge, but my belief is that’s not a significant issue in the near term.” (source)
The biggest challenge, according to Mr. Doggett, will be to make sure plug-in owners don't take up the habit of charging during peak energy use if it can be avoided. But that shouldn't be too much of a problem, especially in areas were time-of-use electricity rates are used (it makes it much cheaper to charge off-peak), and electric vehicle chargers can be built with pre-programmed timers.