Electric vehicles of all kinds continue to penetrate the huge American automobile market. Today there are about 600,000 such vehicles on the road, compared to well over 220 million conventional gasoline and natural gas vehicles now on the roads.
This steady trend is prompting electric utilities and energy planning and advocacy groups to begin discussions about the nation’s electric utility industry’s ability to support the re-charging of these vehicles. Of course there could certainly be cases where the local utility lines in a neighborhood might need to be reinforced, or perhaps if enough electric cars are clustered in an area, neighborhood substations might need to be reinforced as well. This would depend on the local conditions of course and not subject to general rules….much like installing solar systems on homes and other buildings. It depends on the local conditions.
The National Renewable Energy Lab broadly projects the American grid can handle 7.5 million electric vehicles; but this is an overall estimate as local electric utility lines and capacities vary widely across the country. For instance, older urban/suburban communities with their heavily congested areas and aging electric infrastructures are very different from long distance electric lines strung in sparsely populated semi-rural areas.
What might happen if an electric charging garage, with many parking spaces, is placed near a commuter train line in a mature suburban community? Or if a new development of apartment houses is part of a large urban renewal project in a city center? All this has to be looked at and planned.
It will take time and money to change the electric utility system to accommodate such a significant change. This is already happening to utilities now as folks are installing photovoltaic systems that can feed electric energy back into the grid, which can radically change the operation of utility lines previously designed for one-way power flow. Add to this the futuristic plans to have already charged electric vehicles act as tiny generating stations to discharge a portion of their stored battery energy back into the grid during high peak periods to help the grid.
You have to admire Thomas Edison and his charging of electric vehicles way back in 1908 in his home garage. The man knew what was coming; and don’t forget…..he also designed and built the first electric utility system in New York City in 1882.