It’s imperative to figure out how President Joe Biden’s electric vehicle adoption goal of 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030, announced in April 2023, will impact the grid, which was not designed to power large numbers of vehicles.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) predicts a 38% rise in U.S. electricity consumption by 2050, due in part to EVs. Demand for energy is rising faster than upgrades to the transmission grid have evolved to meet it, said David Lewis, founder and CEO of MoveEV.
According to White House estimates, 70% of the country’s transmission lines are over 25 years old. Contrast that with the increase in residential usage from 1.1 to 1.5 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) over the last 25 years, and predictions of 48 million EVs on the road by 2030—which will create an annual charging demand of up to 230 billion kWh (as opposed to the current 11 billion kWh today).
This will require distribution system upgrades and load management strategies to avoid having higher peak loads causing reliability issues. To that end, some utility companies have begun conferring with EV manufacturers, car dealerships and ride-share providers to strategize about where grid upgrades should occur and when to purchase additional renewable energy. Joel Levin, executive director of Plug In America, called automakers and utilities “partners until the end of time … whether they like it or not.”
“We need these kinds of partnerships for this to work,” said Amy Costadone, principal product manager, VGI for electric utility PG&E.
Some of the ideas currently being worked on include:
- Providing cash incentives to EV drivers: Two utilities, Con Edison and Orange & Rockland, joined an EV charging software company to encourage drivers to charge their vehicles during off-peak hours. Other utilities are offering “time of use” incentives to encourage drivers to charge their EVs when grid demand is lower. “Time of charging is important,” Lewis emphasized. Research from the Yale School of the Environment analyzing electricity demand in California, the state with the most EVs, concluded that charging EVs during the first half of the day (midnight to noon) could minimize the impact on the state’s electric supply and take advantage of more sustainable energy sources. In addition, charging their fleet cars at home instead of at a centralized workplace parking lot can disperse the electricity demand and reduce the possibility of a grid overload. Alternatively, allowing employees to take light-duty company vehicles home to charge overnight during off-peak hours is an option.
- Enable utilities to incorporate flexible load management: Sunverge Energy, a virtual power plant platform, partnered with Eaton, Cleveland, and an EV charging infrastructure platform, to value-stack grid services for reliability, resiliency and flexibility.
- Allow vehicles to send energy from their battery back to the electric grid: Oncor Electric Delivery is collaborating with Toyota on vehicle-to-grid technology. PG&E is working with BMW on a similar project. Vehicle-to-everything technologies, called V2X, is gaining interest as utilities see EVs as becoming a sort of mobile distributed energy resource.
- Offer rebate programs: Utility company Baltimore Gas & Electric uses the metering capabilities of EV chargers for a rebate program that comes with a time-of-use rate structure. Similar programs have been used in Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
“Ultimately, several technological and policy-based solutions will need to converge to make sure the grid can handle the increased demand from EV charging,” Lewis said. He expects incentives and partnerships to complement technology and policy.
About The Author
Lori Lovely is an award-winning writer and editor in central Indiana. She writes on technical topics, heavy equipment, automotive, motorsports, energy, water and wastewater, animals, real estate, home improvement, gardening and more. Reach her at: [email protected]