Every time Tesla breaks into a new market, the media brings up the same concern: that electric vehicles will overwhelm electric grids, resulting in blackouts. But researchers, analysts, and government officials agree this worry is unfounded.
According to many, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Electric Power Research Institute, EVs like the Tesla Roadster and upcoming Model S won’t strain standard electrical grids for several reasons:
EVs don’t use much more power than major electronics. The energy demanded by most plug-in vehicles during charging (about 2 kilowatts) is the same amount drawn by four to five plasma-screen televisions. In just the U.S., 115 million households own televisions, and more than half own two or three -- yet you never hear about consumers and utilities panicking about TVs disrupting the grid. There’s a common misconception that electric cars will double or even triple the amount of power pulled from the grid by the typical home, but this simply isn’t the case.
Electric vehicles will roll out gradually. Analysts predict that only 500,000 EVs will be produced around the world every year, starting in 2015. Continuing with the television comparison, the half million cars added every year to the world’s supply will use about as much power as 2 million plasma TV sets. To put this in context, about 28 million televisions are sold annually in the U.S. alone. Considering that grid utilities are already upgrading local transformers and grid equipment to handle greater loads, accommodating a growing number of EVs shouldn’t be a problem.
Smart grid safeguards are on the way. In addition to adding capacity, utilities are creating incentives and mechanisms to encourage EV charging at night when energy demand is low. Many power companies are planning to introduce discounted rates for EV owners who plug in during off-peak hours. Today, utilities are rolling out millions of residential smart meters and devices that will allow for simple, automated charging. Soon, EV owners will be able to plug in when they get home from work at 5 pm, knowing that their car won’t start charging until cheaper electricity rates kick in at 11 pm. This technology is set to become commonplace well ahead of major EV market share, ensuring a stronger grid for the next wave of transportation.
Tesla is taking grid parameters very seriously as we deliver more cars. The Roadster is designed to consume only as much power as is available. Pair this with the fact that the average Roadster only needs its battery topped off after driving an average of 40 miles a day, and it’s clear that EVs won’t break the grid anytime soon.