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How Will America’s Grid Stability Be Affected by Electric Vehicles?

By now, most people have a general awareness of the benefits of going electric. Fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and less maintenance are a few of the reasons many people are making the switch. But with more people going electric, there are also questions and concerns about the potential stress that switching to electric vehicles may have on the electric grid.

The good news is that grid stability is being addressed as more electric vehicles are added to America’s roadways, and there are measures in place to build, protect, and strengthen the electric grid as we fully transition into an EV future. Let’s explore more about the electric grid, the potential impact that more EV drivers could have on the grid, and what exactly America is doing to secure grid stability now and in the future.

Electricity Tower

What Exactly Is Grid Stability?

To understand grid stability and what factors make the grid stable or unstable, let’s first examine what is meant when we talk about the “grid” itself. 

The electrical grid is a general term for the electrical network in charge of generating and distributing electricity across expansive areas including cities, outlying towns and roadways. The grid is operated by utility companies and energy suppliers who create or harness electricity and manage its supply to homes and businesses. 

The electrical grid is a highly complex, tiered network that oversees generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity throughout the entire county. In the United States, there are three main power grids. The Eastern Interconnection includes the area east of the Rocky Mountains and a portion of northern Texas. The Western Interconnection consists of the area west of the Rockies and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) covers most of Texas. Each of the three regional power grids are made up of balancing authorities within them that are in charge of distributing electricity within their areas to ensure supply and to avoid overload or shortages.

Other Names Associated with the Electrical Grid 

  • Power Grid
  • Power Distribution Grid
  • National Grid
Lightning strike in city

What Factors Affect Grid Stability?

Simply put, grid stability is the reliability and consistency in which power or electricity can be produced and supplied. The grid’s job is to plan and account for inconsistencies to maintain a steady flow of electricity everywhere it’s needed. Here are some common ways that grid stability is affected:

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Natural Disasters

Extreme weather and natural disasters can disrupt the power grid. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes can wipe out power plants and create a void in one part of the power grid that leads to strains elsewhere. Weather can also create a larger demand for power if people are forced indoors and need to combat extreme heat or snow storms with things like air conditioning or heat.

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Electricity Generation   

Some sources of electricity generation are more consistent than others and can create strains on the power grid depending on how much power is or is not being generated. For example, more homes and businesses installing solar panels to generate their own electricity can result in grid strain. If not managed properly, the generation of surplus electricity on certain parts of the grid can cause overload and potential shutdowns.

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Electricity Demand

Power outages can occur due to increased demand and excessive electricity use. The grid works best if it isn’t strained all at once, but weather or social factors can cause increased use of electricity and added strain. For example, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, people in many parts of the country were encouraged to stay indoors or work from home. An increase in people using appliances and electronics at home created added strain on the grid that needed to be addressed by local utility companies to avoid overloads. 

A more common high-demand situation is grid strain during heat waves. When temperatures spike, and air conditioner use is high, people are often advised to avoid running appliances like washers and dryers until evening. Waiting to run high-energy appliances until air conditioner use is reduced keeps the demand for electricity in line with the supply so as to not overload the grid, which can result in black outs.  

Electric Vehicles Plugged into Chargers

What is America Doing to Ensure Grid Stability During the EV Boom?

As part of his Build Back Better Agenda, President Joe Biden plans to ensure that 50% of all vehicle sales are electric by 2030. Even without this ambitious goal, America was already in need of a major infrastructure overhaul that specifically needed to address grid stability. 

Thankfully, along with the Build Back Better Agenda, which includes $555 billion for clean energy and climate change provisions, the Biden-Harris administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program will also raise over $5 billion more to bolster and expand the nation’s electrical grid and EV charging infrastructure. 

Power transformer

What are EV Charging Companies Doing To Help Grid Stability?

There’s been a lot of speculation regarding how much additional stress a nation of mostly EV drivers could have on the power grid. The good news is that according to Virta.Global, even if 80% of all US cars were electric, it would only lead to about a 10-15% increase in electricity use. Experts in renewable energy like Matteo Muratori, who runs a research team at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, say this increase will be about the same that the grid experienced when air conditioning was introduced and became commonplace in homes and businesses. Experts also are not worried because the shift to EVs will be gradual and the power grid is adapting daily to meet the growing needs. 

Furthermore, EVs tend to be 5-6 times more energy efficient than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, and save 75% of the energy needed by their ICE passenger car counterparts. While ICE vehicles do not directly use electricity for power, a lot of electricity is used by gas stations, and refineries to produce fuel. So while more EV charging stations will create more demand for electricity, more electric vehicles could also reduce strain on the grid overall as we rely less on fossil fuels. 

One of the added benefits of being somewhat of a “new” technology is that EV companies are able to utilize modern energy strategies and tech, such as optimized charging times or personal home electricity surpluses, and can adapt quickly and concurrently with grid needs. EV charging tech is much more intuitive and fairly easy to update along with other evolving grid technologies.

EV charging companies are well aware of their place in ensuring grid stability and have accounted for that in their engineering process. Enel X Way’s JuiceNET charging platform, for instance, has been designed with a grid  awareness that provides an option to charge at optimal times to reduce grid strain. To learn more about the many benefits to the grid that JuiceNET offers, read our blog about it HERE.

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