Study Says Electric Vehicles Could Strain Energy Grid
There are many terrific things about electric vehicles. These energy-efficient, environmental-friendlyvehicles help reduce our reliance on foreign energy sources. However, there are also drawbacks to electric vehicles and a new study shows that one major drawback is that these green autos could place a huge strain on existing electricity grids.
Pros and Cons of Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles, which run off of a rechargeable battery, have a number of benefits in comparison with traditional autos. Those benefits include:
- - They are very energy efficient. The U.S. Department of Energy reports, "electric vehicles convert about 59-62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels". A regular auto converts less than 21% or about a third of that energy.
- - Electric vehicles are "green". They do less harm to the environment because they don’t cause air pollution.
- - They reduce dependence on foreign suppliers. Electric vehicles rely on electricity, which is a domestic energy source, rather than gasoline, which we get from foreign sources.
But there are some big "cons" to electric vehicles as well including:
- - They can’t drive far before they need to be charged. At this time, electric vehicles are best used for short-term, limited-range driving.
- - They are costly. It costs a lot to create this new technology so the cost to buy an electric vehicle is prohibitive for many people. However, there are savings down the line since you don’t have to buy gas for these cars.
- - Electric vehicles may strain the electric grid.
Strain on Electricity Grid
Electric vehicles are operated off of a battery, which must be recharged after the car goes about 200 miles. The charging period is usually between four and eight hours. Early results from an ongoing study by Austin-based Pecan Street show that this charging can create a strain on the electricity grid.
Pecan Street focused its study in a planned community called Mueller, a community that has already been built around a renewable energy/ sustainability model. It utilizes smart grid technology and has one of the highest concentrations of electric vehicle ownership in the entire world.
What the study found is that people will charge their cars whenever it is most convenient for them to do so. The problem is that most people are on similar work schedules and so the "convenient" time to charge the car is the same for most people. Think about it; if you go to work from 9-5 every weekday and the car needs to be charged for you to go then you’re probably going to plug it in to recharge each day when you get home from work.
With everyone charging their cars at the same time, there’s a huge demand on the electric grid at this time. This means that the electric companies have to work really hard to make sure that the strain doesn’t cause an outage. It also means that rates go up at this time because electric companies bring in power from more expensive sources to meet the demand.
Options and Alternatives
The benefits of electric vehicles arguably outweigh the negatives. It’s just that options need to be explored for handling the "cons" to make the most out of introducing this new technology in a smart way. One option might be for electric companies to offer incentives (likely in the form of pricing) that encourage electric vehicle owners to charge their cars during off-peak hours to reduce strain on the energy grid. This is an area that both electric companies and electric vehicle manufacturers will need to stay abreast of as the popularity of such cars grows.
Publish Date: 2013-01-28 17:48:52
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