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Connection, Part 2 - Could EVs Someday Help Tame California's Troublesome 'Duck Curve'?

Discussions about electric vehicles (EVs) often focus on the additional demands they will put on the power grid in future years, with concerns about the grid’s reliability and ability to meet peak demand often taking center stage. There’s no doubt that a widespread transition to EVs would pose real challenges, but utilities in California and elsewhere are also starting to think creatively about how to transform those challenges into an opportunity — although there are significant hurdles to clear along the way, including the needed buy-in from EV owners. In today’s RBN blog, we explain California’s so-called duck curve, show how certain EV solutions aim to address some of the power grid’s current problems, and look at some ways to get EV drivers to become active (and willing) participants in a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) initiative, which increasingly looks like an essential element in any long-term plan.

We first looked at EV charging in a 2021 blog, Electric Avenue, where we laid out the basics of charging technology and how the increased electrification of passenger transportation might impact the energy and power markets in California and Texas — two populous but very different states. Our One Shining Moment series then looked at the sudden burst of attention EVs have received recently, including the impact of last year’s higher gasoline prices on the EV market, and we’ve also explored how the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is incentivizing automakers to make more EVs (and batteries) in the U.S. while also posing challenges for automakers looking to meet the requirements of the revised EV tax credits.

In Part 1 of this series we discussed the introduction of bidirectional charging and V2G technology. In essence, V2G technology treats high-capacity EV batteries not only as power sources to energize cars, trucks and SUVs, but also as potential backup storage for the power grid. Through the use of vehicles with bidirectional charging capabilities (such as the Ford F-150 Lightning) and advanced charging stations, electricity could be pushed to (and pulled from) connected vehicles based on the demand for electricity at any given time. It’s part of a larger initiative known as vehicle-grid integration. While any meaningful scale for this sort of integration is still a very long way away, the vision is that this extra energy could be used to help power houses, other buildings — and ultimately anything connected to the grid.

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