Why electric cars would not swamp the electric grid, at least in New York

A fear over expanding use of electric vehicles is whether the increased electric demand would swamp the electric grid. The electric grid is those high power transmission lines criss-crossing the country. The claim is the electric grid wasn’t designed well and might not handle the extra load from electric cars. However the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) recently released a report, Alternate Route: Electrifying the Transportation Sector, saying essentially “What’s the problem?”

The report points to two relatively straightforward changes which would cover the new electric demand from a large number of electric cars. Stephen G. Whitley, NYISO President and CEO explained that “PHEVs and other electric-powered vehicles hold the promise of significant environmental and economic benefits. As New York’s grid operator, the NYISO is looking ahead to anticipate the needs and maximize the benefits of PHEVs. If New York motorists start plugging-in significant numbers of PHEVs, we will see new demands on the grid. However, if deployed with technology and incentives to encourage favorable charging patterns, PHEVs can offer valuable new ways to store electricity produced in off-peak periods. That energy storage potential could enhance the grid’s use of windpower.”

EPRI/NRDC

The NYISO study cites an Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) study reporting that 50% of American automobiles travel less than 26 miles/day. This means a PHEV with a battery pack offering more than 26 miles of battery-only range potentially meets half of America’s daily automotive transportation.

The primary part of the report is a sort of time-shifting of electricity produced at night for use during the day. It’s well understood that the electric grid has excess electricity at night, and electricity could be stored at night and used during the day. Hence the battery pack in plug-in electric cars has the electricity storage required to time-shift electricity production from night-time to day-time use.

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Time-of-use electricity rates are cited as an incentive for a plug-in electric car owner to ensure their car is charged at night. Further the study assumes 70% of the charging would occur during off-peak hours (at night). Hence it’s easily seen the electricity requirements for electric cars would peak at night when 70% of recharging is done, with that electricity being used during the day.

EPRI/NRDC

The second part of the report is the timing of windpower availability. In the vicinity of New York City wind power is most available at night when electricity demand is the least. For NYC to gain much wind power benefit requires an electricity storage system. Electricity is the ultimate in just-in-time inventory and is not readily storable for later use. PHEV’s are positioned as a way to store electricity generated from wind turbines.

Together these two ideas clearly suggest PHEV’s in the NYC area would not overly tax the electric grid, and potentially make use of electricity from clean wind power.

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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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