The Grid Should Be Fine When We’re All Driving EVs

Here comes the sun

One of the more fun anti-EV memes is the one that concludes that the grid will collapse under the weight of EVs. They essentially predict a world where everyone switches to an electric car overnight and we’re plunged into a chaotic blackout. Thanks to the power-sucking electric car sitting in our garages, we are doomed to eternal darkness.

The reality, though, is less doom and gloom. Will electric vehicles put a strain on the grid once everyone is driving them? There’s always the possibility but it’ll be years before that happens. Fortunately, right now, things are happening to should keep us from being thrown back into the stone age. 

Solar farm concept art

Electrify America

Eco-Friendly Fast Charging

I’ve already talked about the fact that the grid is cleaner than some people believe. In other words, EVs are not exclusively charged by coal power plants. Coal is only about 19-percent of our power grid and its use will continue to shrink over time. 

Still, the grid is not entirely powered by sunshine and rainbows. What’s nice is that soon Electrify America’s charging stations will be supplied by the sky. The Sunshine part, not the rainbows. We still do not possess that technology. 

Electricity Power Pole

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Electrify America announced this week that it will use enough solar power from an upcoming solar panel farm to offset all the electricity it currently uses at its charging stations. Set to be operational by 2023, the Southern California facility will harness the power of our closest star to keep EVs on the road. 

It’s a huge deal. It’s also one of the ways that our electrical grid will be upgraded over the coming decades to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. 

Hold it Now

If your first reaction is “but the sun doesn’t shine at night.” Well, technically it does but not on your part of the world. But you’re right. Solar panels are worthless at night and during very cloudy days. Fortunately, there are batteries. Very big batteries. 

As more electric vehicles come to market that support bidirectional charging, those vehicles can replace the need to add battery packs in residential homes.

You may have heard about Tesla’s huge Powerpack stations that store power. They’re distributed in Australia, and here in the United States in states like California and Hawaii. The one on Kauai is fed electricity from a solar panel farm that sits right need to the packs and one of the ones in Southern California is fed by windmills hours away in Tehachapi. In both scenarios, excess power isn't wasted and is stored to be used at night or when the wind dies down. 

These electric storage facilities can also replace peaker plants that have been turned on when the grid is under pressure. For example, during a heatwave, the sun’s creating a situation and helps solve the same issue thanks to panels and giant batteries that can be used to distribute more energy to our homes when the grid is taxed. 

Think Locally, Like at Home Level Locally

Of course, there are individuals out there that are looking at solar panels for their homes. The numbers are growing and by essentially pulling their home off the grid during the day that power can be distributed elsewhere. Also, those homes can sell power to the grid to help power other locations. So instead of one giant farm in the California desert, there’s a distributed network of panel-enabled homes helping themselves and the rest of us. 

EV Charging port

Westend61 / Getty Images

Even better, as more electric vehicles come to market that support bidirectional charging, those vehicles can replace the need to add battery packs (like the Tesla Powerwall) in residential homes. The F-150 Lighting can be used to power a home and so can the upcoming Volkswagen ID.Buzz.

The scenario would be that during the day while one of your EVs is at home it’ll be charged by the solar panels. Then when needed, the power in that EV can be distributed to the house during peak usage. For example, in the afternoon when power usage (and prices) start to climb. A combination of the sun and the EVs that are supposed to doom our power grid are actually helping it. 

So the future of power distribution isn’t so grim after all. In fact, it’ll likely give individuals greater control over our power usage and more importantly, our bills. 

Want to know more about EVs? We have a whole section dedicated to electric vehicles!

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