The electric car revolution might finally force us to upgrade our electric grid, spurring a future better able to survive natural disasters.
Electrical utilities and engineers have been saying this for years: our electric grid sucks. It’s always on the brink of collapse. One fallen tree on a set of power lines could take out a neighborhood, while an ice storm in New York could take out the entire Eastern Seaboard.
And that’s a problem for electric cars. If a significant portion of the cars on the road switched from burning gas to charging up, then the strain on the grid could cause the whole system to crash.
But, while some look at the electric car and our electrical grid with trepidation, others see it as an opportunity. At least, that’s how a new study from the Boston Consulting Group tries to paint the EV picture.
According to the study, expected demand for electric vehicles will be between 20-30% of all car sales by 2030. That includes both pure electric cars as well as hybrid vehicles with an electric range (mild-hybrids aren’t counted since they don’t plug into the electric grid). Overall, 12% of vehicles on the road are expected to be electrified by 2030, which seems low, but keep in mind only one in every 50 cars is electrified currently, so maybe 12% is being optimistic.
Anyway, the report says that even with 12% of cars going electric by 2030 it will still “the capacity of the current grid.” How much it will strain the grid depends on when people charge, where they charge, and what time of the year it is. Things get dicey in the summer when everyone is running their air conditioners, while spring and fall are less likely to cause a system crash due to the extra load of EVs.
While the study sounds the alarm, it also shines a ray of home. Additional demand should spur investment in the electrical grid, and more demand for EV charging would allow electric utilities to offer charging stations in much the same way oil companies have gas stations. They could even offer subscription services to generate even more revenue.
The study also recommends utilities offer software and consulting services for EV manufacturers to help manage their fleet’s energy requirements.