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Electric Avenue - Greater EV Adoption Creates a Disruptive Predicament for U.S. Power Grid

Electric vehicles sit front and center in the effort to decarbonize passenger transportation, a movement that helped make Tesla’s Elon Musk the richest man in the world. Pair this with heavy attention to EVs from the broader car-and-truck market and the White House’s goal of 50% EV sales by 2030 and it makes you wonder how EVs will impact the energy and power-generation sectors. We’ve all seen how power grids can be overwhelmed during periods of extreme heat or cold, by relying too heavily on intermittent renewables like wind and solar, or — as many Texans saw last February — by interruptions in natural gas deliveries to gas-fired power plants. What might happen when we add tens of millions of power-hungry EVs to the mix? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the impacts that scaling electric vehicles may have on energy and power markets and the power grid.

The push for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) — a subset of electric vehicles that includes all-electric, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) such as the Tesla Model S and the Chevy Bolt, and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) such as the Honda Clarity and the Ford Escape PHEV — will disrupt current driving and power consumption norms and has the potential to have major market impacts. An early market worry ties to infrastructure needs, which are proving to be one of the biggest hurdles in the switch from internal combustion engines to EVs.

Charging Infrastructure

There have been many changes to U.S. transportation fuels over the years, as we described in our Come Clean series, including the move to unleaded gasoline in the 1970s, and to lower-sulfur fuels in the 1990s and 2000s. These changes had the most effect on refineries, which had to reconfigure their operations and invest in new equipment so they could produce cleaner fuels. For drivers, there really wasn’t much of an effect. They were still going to a service station and filling up their tanks.

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