Electric Vehicles on Collision Course with Reality

California’s energy policies are a mess. Ostensibly committed to cutting CO2 emissions, the state shuttered its main nuclear power plant. California has invested massively in wind and solar energy, but since these technologies produce electricity only a minority of the time, California keeps the lights on by importing electricity from other states–electricity that was generated using the reliable sources that California ostensibly eschews.

Then we have electric vehicles. Currently, fewer than two percent of the vehicles on the road in the U.S. are electric. That percentage may be a little higher in California, but it is still miniscule. Nevertheless, California has enacted legislation that seeks to ban gasoline-powered vehicles beginning in 2035. Where the infrastructure will come from to support such a transition in the automobile fleet in the next 14 years is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, California’s grid is so inadequate that it can’t effectively charge the tiny number of electric cars already on the road. Newsweek reports:

As temperatures hit triple digits during California’s heat wave last week, the state’s power grid operators encouraged residents to relieve pressure on the grid by charging their electric vehicles before the peak energy use times of day.
“Now is the perfect time to do a load of laundry,” the state’s Flex Alert Twitter account posted on June 18. “Remember to use major appliances, charge cars and devices before #FlexAlert begins at 6 p.m. today.”

It is characteristic of some especially poor or war-torn third-world countries that electricity is available only intermittently during the day. California, welcome to the third world.

Patty Monahan, the lead commissioner on transportation at the California Energy Commission, told Newsweek last month that the times of day Californians choose to charge their electric vehicles will be important in keeping the power grid balanced as reliance on electric vehicles grows.
Matthew Moniot, a researcher with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said during a recent interview with Newsweek that electric vehicle owners now mostly charge their vehicles at night, but that will likely have to change so that more drivers are charging while energy production levels are higher.

There is a reason why EV owners charge their cars at night. It is because that is when they are not driving them. The problem is inherent, since the Sun doesn’t shine at night and winds tend to die down at night, as well. There is no real solution to the problem when EVs represent two percent of the cars on the road, let alone in the hypothetical world where they are 100 percent.

Increased reliance on solar and wind energy will present a “tricky problem” regarding “how much can we move what’s currently overnight charging to be during the daytime hours, when generation may be more excessive,” Moniot said.

“The key is flexibility,” he added.

Sure. Drive your car at night, and charge it during the day.

“Green” energy policies are a disaster everywhere they are being implemented, but California will probably crash and burn before the other states that have gone down the “green” path.

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