Ford plans to build 2 million electric vehicles annually including a version of its best-selling pickup truck, the F-150. Before the F-150 even hit dealers’ lots, there were over 200,000 reservations from eager buyers. General Motors plans to eliminate gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035. Chargepoint, the largest installer of electric charging stations has installed over 20,000 stations in the U.S. and gasoline stations all across the country are installing electric fueling stations to supplement or replace their traditional gasoline pumps. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), provides billions in funds dedicated to converting public transportation from fossil fuels to electricity. These numbers make clear that America is ready for electric-powered transportation, but is our electric grid ready?
In 2021, net generation of electricity from utility-scale generators in the United States was about 4,116 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) (or about 4.12 trillion kWh). (US Energy Information Administration (EIA)). EIA estimates that an additional 49.03 billion kWh (or about 0.05 trillion kWh) were generated with small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. An electric vehicle (EV) has an average storage capability of 54 KWh and consumes 27 kWh to travel 100 miles. An EV uses approximately 3,800kWh per year. Currently, there are approximately 3 million EVs on the roads in the U.S. This 3 million represents just 2% of the total car population on U.S. roads. Projections vary wildly but if the projections from Statista are correct, than in just 8 years 30% of all U.S. vehicles could be EVs. That means that the grid will need to handle an increase of 19.38 Billion kWh.
This is an aggressive goal. One that many states are stepping up and achieving. For example, Massachusetts is implementing a plan that includes:
- Upgrades for new wires, transformers, or meters needed to make the connection to the grid
- Car-sharing using EVs in environmental justice communities
- Discounts to EV owners for off-peak charging
California has made ambitious EV goals but still struggles with grid balancing. One proposal has been to use EVs to help balance the grid: charging cars at off-peak hours and discharging power back to the grid during peak times. Two things will help our grid handle EVs. First the growth of EV sales is remarkable but still gradual. Second, battery storage is increasing and with it a better use of solar electricity sources.
Some of Biden’s IIJA will go to upgrade our electric grid other funds from IIJA will accelerate our acquisition of EVs. The grid has some catching up to do, but will likely have the time and funds to succeed in getting ready for the new age of electric cars.