( About 21 minutes )

If things go as they estimate, EVs (electric vehicles) will be a very big deal by 2025. Is that possible? Yes. Likely? Maybe.

A question I had was: Can the electrical grid handle these new loads coming on line? Probably – if the roll out speed is not too fast.

Electric Cars Could Destroy the Electric Grid—or Fix It Forever.

The good news is that massive—if not immediate—EV uptake could be a boon to the grid, by leveling out daily electricity demand and possibly even storing renewable energy in cars’ batteries, to be discharged when needed.

The utilities have plenty of time to plan ahead. Beshir, who has been researching how EVs might impact the grid for the better part of a decade, says he doesn’t see any real impact to the grid until around 15 percent of vehicles on the road go electric. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance report released last summer projects that level of uptake will happen by 2035.

So we have 15 to 20 years to get the grid in shape to handle the new loads. The immediate effects, however, will be local.

How many electric cars can the grid take? Depends on your neighborhood.

In aggregate, increased electricity demand was sustainable up to 25-percent EV penetration, as long as you were only counting in terms of kilowatt hours of electricity consumed and assumed all charging was happening at night.

But when Muratori studied more local scenarios, heavy demand was more concerning. The researcher simulated “a residential distribution transformer connected to six households” with 11 vehicles total. The transformer could handle up to six electric cars charging with Level 1 charging, but the simulated transformer saw demand in excess of its nominal capacity as soon as one EV with Level 2 charging was added to the neighborhood.

While electrical transformers are built to withstand such temporary surges in electrical demand, Muratori cites research that shows the expected life of transformer equipment can decrease “by two orders of magnitude when a transformer hits ’50 percent above its nominal capacity.'” While you wouldn’t necessarily have a blown-fuse scenario, the research shows that utilities may soon face a choice of either upgrading the equipment or having to replace existing hardware more often.

Heat is an enemy of all electrical equipment. Reliability is cut in half for every 10°C rise in temperature. Roughly. Transformers will need to be more efficient (bigger). That probably also means more transformers. That is expensive – the first time around. After that it is just maintenance. Which is not too expensive.

And after we get above 25% penetration? More generating capacity will be required. Since plants take up to 10 years from the time of proposal until watts are delivered planning and roll out will need to start fairly soon. No later than 2025. But by then the trends will be obvious, which will probably decrease resistance to new plants.

Supposedly a lot of these problems can be fixed with the “Smart Grid”. But that opens the electrical power grid to hacking. Which is why I wrote The Stupidity Of The Smart Grid.