At first, Tesla had the electric vehicle (EV) market mostly to itself. That’s because few people saw the viability of an EV market, so Tesla was able to strike early and fast. But Tesla’s success in making EVs mainstream has since drawn the attention of major automotive manufacturers and startups worldwide. Many of these automakers are beginning to launch EV lineups, with some pledging all-EV lineups within the coming decade.
$370 Billion for Clean-Energy Initiatives
(There are even electric pickup trucks now.) On the policy side, there has been movement recently to encourage vehicle electrification and hybridization. The Biden administration’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act earmarks $370 billion for clean-energy initiatives, including tax credits for people who buy qualifying vehicles and a combination of loans and grants for EV facilities. For its part, California just announced a ban on emitting vehicles by 2035. Analysts expect the EV market to reach at least 30 percent of sales by 2030.
For environmental reasons, the move toward electrification is a positive trend, as it will reduce reliance on fossil fuels for transportation. However, what does electrification of the car market mean for energy consumption? Can the US grid handle the move to electrification?
The Difference Between Gas and Energy Vehicles
In gas cars, fuel consumption is equated with efficiency. This isn’t the case with EVs. That’s because EVs lose energy when they’re parked, unused, and even when they are charging. Climatizing the cabin of an EV is another use of energy not accounted for in efficiency. In a recent test of a Tesla Model 3, reviewers calculated that one-fifth of the car’s energy was spent while the car wasn’t moving. Such data are important because calculating EV energy consumption will help determine how much charging infrastructure is available.
As EV ownership increases, so will that of home charging stations. Currently, Level 1 chargers provide four to five miles of range for each hour of charging. Level 2 chargers are about twice as fast as Level 1 chargers. Even if most cars charge at night, they still draw from the grid, potentially straining overworked power systems. In California, grid operators pay EV owners to charge with bidirectional charging stations. EVs charge at night when demand for air conditioning is lower. During the daytime, plugged-in EVs contribute energy to the grid when it’s needed most.
Will All Electric Vehicles Disrupt the Power Grid?
Critics of EVs worry that the national grid won’t be able to handle a mass influx EVs. According to one Forbes article, that concern is unfounded. This is mainly because the assumption is based on the idea that all EVs, charging at once, would overwhelm the power grid. Using the UK as an example, the article’s author calculates the number of EVs in England and grid capacity. Indeed, if all EVs in the UK charged at once, they would require three times the available output. However, because that will never happen, the author concludes, advanced nations (including the US) have the grid capacity to handle a mass influx of EVs.