The (EV) electric vehicle revolution has already started, calling for a change in the power generation infrastructure globally. With more vehicles needing electricity to operate, it may pose a challenge to accommodate the high demand for electric power, or does it?
The power grid can change to support electric vehicles by implementing V2G (vehicle-to-grid) technology. V2G uses electricity from EV batteries to provide power to the grid during hours of high demand. The grid can also enforce TOU (time of use) rates to incentivize usage during low-demand hours.
In this article, I’ll explain ways the power grid must change to support EVs. I’ll discuss how V2G technology is an effective way for EVs to use energy that can benefit future generations and how TOU rates can significantly affect power consumption.
Power Grid Changes Needed To Support EVs and Avoid Overload
Recommended Electric Vehicle and U.S. Power Grid Upgrades
- V2G Technology – Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology supplying energy back to the power grid.
- Smart Grids – Smart grids enable two-way communication and transferring electricity between the grid and the customer.
- TOU (Time of Use) electricity rates to encourage more off-peak power usage.
- Batteries – Developing better efficient EV battery technology and materials..
- Solar Energy – Incorporating Solar Energy in the electric vehicle’s chassis.
The U.S. power grid is markedly old and has been in place for a long time without significant investment or up-gradation and it shows. In 2021, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the U.S. energy sector a C- grade.
One of the more significant concerns is that some grid components are near the end of their lifespan, threatening their productivity and functionality. This results in power outages and blackouts.
However, when we talk about the current rate of EV adoption, and the U.S. grid’s ability to handle the load of electric vehicle charging, the grid can handle this load without unforeseen extreme weather. While it might not be workable 15 years into the future, it is possible now by making a few adjustments and investments.
Embrace V2G Technology
Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology uses AC (alternating current) to transfer electricity to and from the user. It’s a two-way transfer, making it possible to receive energy from the grid and send it back during a supply shortage. V2G technology applies to EVs because they can store electricity for use at a later time.
Although very few electric vehicles currently support V2G technology, this change in energy usage can be relatively efficient.
With the V2G innovation, power can be routed back to the electrical grid from EV batteries to supply power to homes and offices during hours of high energy consumption. Conversely, it will charge EV batteries when the grid has a surplus.
As attractive as the idea seems, it has some disadvantages because we haven’t developed the relevant technology needed to achieve this, which is EV batteries. The design allows only a finite number of charges, after which the battery must be replaced.
The process of discharging and charging an EVs’ battery multiple times to accommodate the V2G transfer of electricity would call for an added expense for the user. However, this can be mitigated by developing batteries that can last longer.
Invest in Smart Grids To Send and Receive Data From the User
The conventional electric grid was born about a hundred years ago and only focused on the one-way power transfer, which flowed from the grid to its consumer. Unfortunately, this made it hard for the utilities to adjust to the changing demand.
For V2G to become a widely accepted technology, utility companies must first invest in smart grids. Smart grids use specific technologies to enable two-way communication and accommodate the transfer of electricity between the grid and the consumer, making it possible to adjust the power flow according to the consumer’s requirements.
Notably, this is the founding idea of the V2G technology. With the help of smart grids, utilities can move one step further and implement the vehicle-to-grid infrastructure.
Implement TOU (Time of Use) Rates To Encourage More Off-Peak Usage
One of the major concerns we hear when talking about the EV revolution comes from many people thinking that every electric vehicle in the nation will charge at the same time. Yet, this isn’t likely, since everyone has a different schedule.
While the odds of everyone simultaneously charging their electric vehicle are extremely low, it would be catastrophic if it happened. That’s where TOU comes in.
The Federal Energy Management Program uses Demand Response (DR) as a short-term, voluntary decrease in electrical consumption by users and Time-Variable Pricing (TVP) where electricity prices vary at different times of day.
Many U.S. utilities offer Time-Variable Pricing and these usually include simple time-of-use (TOU) rates.
The concept behind TOU is quite simple; charge more for using electricity at times of high demand and less for off-peak timings.
Some electric companies are implementing a similar process they use for air conditioning thermostats. Utility companies like Portland General Electric rolled out an experiment where they asked some of their customers to take part. This experiment allowed Portland General Electric to control their customer’s home thermostats as demand and supply vary.
TOU is one of the best possible solution for charging EVs. It costs people less to charge their electric vehicles during off-peak hours, for instance, at night. This encourages the users to limit charging during peak hours and use power when the grid has a surplus, which prevents it from overloading.
During hours of high demand, the electric company can either cut off power to the charging ports or offer slow charging to save on energy and accommodate more users.
How Can EVs Evolve To Support the Grid?
Recommended Reading: Power Grid’s Constrained Capacity May Slow EV Adoption and Power Grid Failures and Their Causes.
It’s apparent what the US utility companies need to do to improve the grid and support the electric future of vehicles. Yet, there are also a few things electric car makers can do to improve the overall power consumption of vehicles.
Advancements in this area are already underway, but it’ll take a while before a final product reaches consumers. All major EV manufacturers are developing new battery tech that will revolutionize the amount of energy used by electric cars.
Incorporating Solar Energy in EVs
Integrated electric vehicle solar panels provide a new innovative method of power generation for electric vehicles.
Although solar charging can be slow and depends on many factors, it’s still something to consider. If all electric car makers could incorporate solar charging into the vehicles when we’re driving out in the sun or parked outside, it could save a lot of energy, which otherwise would’ve come from the grid.
For example, if your car is parked outside your office for seven or more hours a day, it could store some solar energy for the drive home later. Such a feature would also provide other benefits, such as helping to prevent situations where drivers might otherwise become stranded in the middle of nowhere without a charging station.
Developing Better Battery Technology
The tech industry has always struggled with battery technology. Introducing batteries with higher capacity and lower power demand can help the already strained grid.
Imagine an electric vehicle that runs just as nicely or even better than today’s models but with less power consumption. With this improvement, it can cover more miles using the same or even less power by comparison. Markedly, this can change the dynamics of the entire scenario.
The issue of EV and battery longevity is an issue that is being addressed to make electric vehicles competitive with gas powered vehicles.
There is of course also the issue of power grid demand and instead of hindering the grid with electric vehicle charging, EV’s could actually help with energy storage through their sophisticated battery storage systems.
To build an energy-efficient future, we must combine all the technologies that make the EV revolution possible to work in tandem. The US electrical grid can only do so much, and significant investments, innovations, and expansion are needed to meet the future with the lights on.
TOU is only a short-term method for accommodating the high electric demand brought about by EVs, and we would need better options should more people start using electric vehicles. However, with further development of smart grids and V2G technologies, we can sustain ourselves in a world of high energy demand without grid failures and blackouts.
- Smartgrid.gov: The smart grid
- Scientific American: Why Electric Vehicles Won’t Break the Grid
- USNews: Can the Nation’s Electrical Grid Support Electric Cars?
- Forbes: Electricity Grids Can Handle Electric Vehicles Easily – They Just Need Proper Management
- Columbia news: How Electric Vehicles Could Fix the Electrical Grid
- Yahoo: Big Oil Wants A Piece Of The Electric Vehicle Pie
- Demand Response and Time-Variable Pricing Programs | Department of Energy
- Forbes: Exponential Sales Of EVs Means Less Gasoline, Less Crude Oil, Less Greenhouse Gases.
- Infrastructurereportcard.org: ASCE’s 2021 Infrastructure Report Card
- TechEvaluate: U.S. Power Grid Is The Problem With The Future Of Electric Vehicles
- KGW: How utility companies lower electricity use by controlling your thermostat
- CSE: Smart Grid
- All about circuits: What is Alternating Current (AC)?
- Application of photovoltaic panels in electric vehicles to enhance the range – PMC