How the Rise of Electric Cars Can Threaten the Grid

It’s no surprise that neighborhood grids aren’t designed to support impressive spikes in power. Every time you plug an electric vehicle, the grid has to support a spike in power similar to the one implied by connecting three additional houses to it. This is exactly what has determined regions like California to upgrade their grids, in an attempt to avoid potential power outages. However, this measure is currently taken only in regions where electric vehicles have become increasingly popular.


Statistical analysis

There are nearly 15,000 charging stations in the US, and a lot of them have rapid 240 volt chargers. With such an increased demand in electricity it’s only normal to ask ourselves: what will happen when the demand reaches a peak level? Is it possible for electric car drivers to suck in that much power during rush hours? Let us have a closer look at the charging capabilities to understand the potential scale: Tesla is providing an incredibly high voltage charging prospect, offering about 150 miles to the S Model and a charging time of 30 minutes at 85 kWh (kilowatt per hour). The charging capacity will be 480 volt with 90 kW maximum. Simply put, for planning purposes the standard residential household has a peak level between 1.8 and 2.4 kW. Basically, a 90 kW supercharging station will pack around 40 houses worth of climax demand.

How important is the electric power grid in the US?

The number of electric vehicles sold in the United States didn’t exceed 50,000 last year, in circumstances in which researchers have established that grid is powerful enough to support around 150 million electric cars, this figure being equal to 75% of the SUVs, pickups, and vehicles that currently circulate in the US. However, there’s still a problem. Even though transmission lines and power plans are provided with enough capacity, there can appear several problems related to the distribution of electric power to specific neighborhoods. This usually happens because electric vehicles aren’t sold in an evenly distributed manner. For instance, the number of electric cars sold in California is greater than in Santa Monica and Long Beach.


Electric cars that are currently sold require way more power than the ones released a couple of years ago. However, the impact caused by charging an electric car depends on the grid’s location and on the charging method. If the vehicles are slowly charged at 110 volt outlets, there’s no problem. Besides, public stations that charge vehicles fast won’t bring too much damage to the grid, since they’re part of several commercial grids provided with transformers and other features designed especially for large loads.

Overusing the power grid to charge electric cars

Most problems appear when electric vehicle owners decide to turn to charging circuits dedicated to electric vehicles. For example, charging an electric vehicle in some regions of California is equivalent to adding an extra home to the grid. This actually means overusing the grid, taking into account the fact that an ordinary neighborhood circuit doesn’t feature more than ten houses. Besides, in areas where the weather is cooler, people seldom use their air conditioning units, meaning that a house’s peak demand is lower than in other regions. A residence located in San Francisco doesn’t require more than 2 kilowatts of power, while a brand-new electric car charged using a dedicated circuit requires up to 20 kilowatts, depending on the car model.

Are you buying an electric vehicle? Then you need to make it official

Utilities are currently trying to establish which neighborhoods need to be upgraded. Besides, they’re encouraging citizens to announce when they purchase an electric vehicle, so that they can identify the total number of electric cars located in California. According to them, most of the upgrades made so far were planned a long time ago but announcing the authorities about the purchase of an electric vehicle is crucial because it guarantees that your neighborhood will be upgraded sooner. Besides, all upgrades performed are supported by rate payers, not by electric car owners.


Companies such as Southern California Edison and PG&E have turned to special rate plans designed especially for electrical vehicle owners. These plans provide them with discounts as long as they charge their vehicles at night, in order to avoid peak hours. This shouldn’t be a problem, since electric cars can be charged at different time intervals, even though they are plugged in. For example, if you want your battery to be completely charged at 7 AM, the whole process should start at 3 AM or 4 AM, depending on the amount of charging needed. This method is great because it implies charging when not many people are using electric power.

In conclusion, this approach is very much influenced by the way electric car owners decide to charge their vehicles. If they choose to do this at home and right away, the grid could be highly strained. The great news is that most people who own electric vehicles seem to be aware of how they can harm the grid, taking into account the fact that most electric cars are currently charged at night. As long as the situation is kept under control, there’s no reason to worry.

The article is written by a regular guest writer and blogger Jason Phillips. He specializes in writing about latest technology and technological advancements. He also has an extensive knowledge of cars and also contributes at the blog

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