Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Power Transportation Hardware

Electric Cars Won't Strain the Power Grid 438

Posted by kdawson
from the plug-it-in-don't-worry-be-happy dept.
thecarchik writes "Last week's heat wave prompted another eruption of that perennial question: Won't electric cars that recharge from grid power overload the nation's electricity system? The short answer is no. A comprehensive and wide-ranging two-volume study from 2007, Environmental Assessment of Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles, looked at the impact of plug-in vehicles on the US electrical grid. It also analyzed the 'wells-to-wheels' carbon emissions of plug-ins versus gasoline cars. The load of one plug-in recharging (about 2 kilowatts) is roughly the same as that of four or five plasma television sets. Plasma TVs hardly brought worries about grid crashes."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Electric Cars Won't Strain the Power Grid

Comments Filter:
  • What if... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:36PM (#32883032)
    ...most people buy electric SUV's? Didn't think that one through, did they? :P
    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:52PM (#32883114) Homepage

      If the electric cars go home and charge at night, no, they won't strain the grid. Power is overproduced at night (you actually can't spin down the generators all the way, so they produce power even if nobody wants it.)
      If they decide to charge during the day (for example, if people charge them at work), it could strain the grid. Particularly if they charge during hot summer afternoons.
      Unless a significant part of the grid goes to solar, which produces the highest power during the daytime at summer, of course.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        you actually can't spin down the generators all the way, so they produce power even if nobody wants it

        Not sure how that works. Is there a dummy load set up somewhere? In reality I expect the peak load generators to shut down at night and base load generators to shut down as much as they can. I assume that low load conditions would lead to problems keeping generators in phase.

        • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:28AM (#32883374)

          Is there a dummy load set up somewhere?

          Sort of. What happens is the power company almost gives away the power between midnight and 5am to industrial customers and large cities with *lots* of street lights. Nuclear power plants in particular run extremely poorly at anything under 90% of what they're rated to run at, whereas natural gas generators, hydro, etc can be scaled forward and back.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tagno25 (1518033)

        If the electric cars go home and charge at night, no, they won't strain the grid. Power is overproduced at night (you actually can't spin down the generators all the way, so they produce power even if nobody wants it.)

        Actually you can. You turn off four plants and keep two at half load. When there is a surge then the two plants can handle it, and when the surge is sustained then you turn on another plant.
        But typically turning on the plant off and on costs more than keeping it on in the first place, so you just add incandescent light bulbs all over the power plant to use as much as running the plant at the minimum produces.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MichaelSmith (789609)

          But typically turning on the plant off and on costs more than keeping it on in the first place, so you just add incandescent light bulbs all over the power plant to use as much as running the plant at the minimum produces.

          Surely thats a joke. I could believe hydroelectric storage: pump water against gravity, or selling the power to a neighboring network.

          • by kdemetter (965669)

            Surely thats a joke. I could believe hydroelectric storage: pump water against gravity

            That is a way to do it , though it's not very efficient ( but then again , otherwise it's wasted completely ).

            Still , as someone pointed out , statistically , it's very likely that electric cars will charge at night , as most people will be working in the day , and will have to recharge there cars when they get home in the evening.

            Also , as electricity is cheaper at night than in the day , most people would prefer charging there cars at night.

          • by tagno25 (1518033)

            Surely thats a joke. I could believe hydroelectric storage: pump water against gravity, or selling the power to a neighboring network.

            Nope, That is what the local natural gas power plant does.

      • I think the bigger question, which I didn't see answered in TFA, is whether these things are truly better than ICE vehicles on the environment. I mean sure we know they'll probably be better than a Hummer, but has anyone figured out what the mining of lithium for the batteries, the toxic components used in such batteries, the amount of carbon put out in production, the amount used by the grid (many places still have coal plants you know) and finally the disposal and replacement of those batteries after 3-5 years, how all of that compares say to a Kia or other small 4 cyl ICE vehicle?

        Because as we saw with the "get rid of teh evil lead solder!" stupidity we can often make things worse instead of better by not thinking things through. in the case of solder we ended up with a lot more e-waste because the crap solder they replaced lead with broke down much faster than the old, and thrown into a burn pit in China frankly isn't any better than the old. So I would like to see what a "birth to death" study of elec VS ICE would show before I say that elec is the way to go. After all it won't be doing us much good if we just trade carbon at the tailpipe for carbon at the plant PLUS piles of dead batteries PLUS lots of waste in mining and disposal. We need to look at the entire cycle before judging one tech or another.

        • That's a good point. I'm curious to know also if the battery production was taken into account when they decided electric vehicles would be better.

          Surely from a pure power plant versus tailpipe emissions, the power plant won out. They scale better than auto gas engines do.

          I'm still on the fence about lead. I'm glad it's gone from a lot of industrial and consumer products, but at the same time it did serve a valuable purpose. And when it comes to batteries, lead-acid batteries are dead simple to recycle. Lithium on the other hand isn't.

          • You really shouldn't be happy about the lead. Since the switchover I have noticed a LOT more things such as everything from motherboards to DVD players "just dying" a lot sooner than they should. After taking a few of them to a retired engineer down the hall that is a wiz with a soldering iron he confirmed what I already suspected: the new solder fails much easier than the old. I'd say a good 85%+ of the pre-solder stuff I have is functioning well, while I've noticed a good 40%+ failure rate of the new solder soon after the warranty expires.

            So while I can't give you hard numbers to crunch, just from watching the amount of e-waste being generated by my own family I'd say the new solder is adding a good 30-40% when it comes to premature failures. I have a feeling if someone were to sit down and do a study of the lifespan of these common consumer devices before and after the solder switch, that we'd find the amount of e-waste being generated and resources wasted (don't forget it is not just the disposal, but the amount of carbon, resources, and energy required to make these devices that is also being wasted) that the lead solder was much better for the environment on the whole than the new stuff.

            This is why I pointed out the entire lifecycle needs to be taken into account. Sadly I have noticed that many are so quick to jump on anything "green" that hard data isn't taken into account before the switch. I'm all for tech that makes the world a better place to live in, but we really need to look at the "cradle to the grave" of a particular solution before deciding that one is better than the other. There may be hidden externalizations not being taken into account that might make a tech much worse long term.

            • Not sure if you know why, but the European Union passed a Restriction on Hazardous Substances law which limits among other things lead in all products sold in the EU. Sadly. the market in the EU is so large that many manufacturers simply changed over all their production lines to use lead-free solder and other products.

              What I've heard that with lead-free solder is that it will eventually grow hair like structures between wave soldered IC pins that are closely spaced and they aren't protected with conformal coatings. This causes malfunctions in equipment. Lead prevented that from happening but it was decided, for whatever reason, that being lead-free was better for the environment than the waste the changeover created.

              • by nbahi15 (163501) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @04:13AM (#32884414) Homepage

                Removing lead is progress and in time the restriction will become a non-issue for even those that believe in the goodness of lead.

                In the US, people spent ages bellyaching about the low-flush toilets. Initially the toilets that came out often did perform poorly because when you could use half a lake to flush the toilet you didn't need good design. Designs have improved and one of the greatest wasters of fresh water was reduced.

                Realize that government is a process and that there are always trade-offs. Usually they aren't even entirely clear trade-offs.

          • It depends... (Score:3, Informative)

            by Goonie (8651)

            As usual, the answer is "it depends", with lots of assumptions you can argue about in the absence of actual data.

            A biggie is where the grid electricity comes from.

            Another is how long the batteries will last, and how long an electric car will last. There have been studies claiming that a Hummer has lower life cycle emissions than an electric car, but they assume an absurdly long lifetime for Hummer and an absurdly short lifetime (and no recycling) for the EV.

            Google "life cycle emissions BEV" or something li

      • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @08:11AM (#32885428)

        If the electric cars go home and charge at night, no, they won't strain the grid. Power is overproduced at night (you actually can't spin down the generators all the way, so they produce power even if nobody wants it.)

        What I read in IEEE spectrum a few months ago was that it wasn't the production capacity that would be strained, but the transformers in residential areas. This surprised me, but the article stated that in many areas, the cooling capacity of the local transformers was undersized since they would be underutilized at night and would therefore cool off at that time.

        That seems strange to me, since in the temperate climes, the hottest part of the year also has the shortest nights -- I wouldn't think the cooling benefit of lower usage at night would be so great, and it's not like your gonna swap out transformers on May Day and Halloween and ship them to the other hemisphere on an exchange program. I also don't think that this is a common practice in my part of the US because my Dad was a power EE, and he talked to me a lot about his job and never once mentioned this. They had a lot of transformer problems: squirrels grabbing two terminals, birds building nests (it's nice and warm), wrong oils used in filling them, PCB remediation, guys at the fiberglass plant busting the nearby insulators with glass beads shot from slingshots. But I sure don't remember anything about undersized radiator capacity. Hardly proof -- and maybe things changed since -- but it makes me skeptical.

    • by gravos (912628)
      If an electric SUV causes 2x the load of a normal car and a normal car isn't a problem, then a bunch of SUVs probably wouldn't be a problem either.
    • Re:What if... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JordanL (886154) <[jordan.ledoux] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:26AM (#32883358) Homepage
      You were being funny, but I think it's important to point out: we produce about 14 exajoules of energy for electric power a year. We use about 28 exajoules for transportation.

      This study seemed to overlook something rather important.
      • Re:What if... (Score:5, Informative)

        by rsborg (111459) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:18AM (#32883634) Homepage

        You were being funny, but I think it's important to point out: we produce about 14 exajoules of energy for electric power a year. We use about 28 exajoules for transportation.

        This study seemed to overlook something rather important.

        No, I think the study's numbers are on-base. Electric car adoption will not be 100% overnight (or we'd be pretty screwed). They are assuming 500K (out of 300M) cars with current power plant base loads... and that would be 0.0017, about 1/6 of one percent. I think our nighttime base load (which throws away energy right now) can handle it.

        And that's assuming you are calculating actual energy converted from gasoline (a horrible conversion loss) and you are not conflating industrial/commercial transport with personal transport.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        We do, but keep in mind that an ICE is only about 18%to 19% efficient (the engine itself is about 20% http://courses.washington.edu/me341/oct22v2.htm [washington.edu], but not all of that gets to the pavement - 80%+ of the energy from burning gasoline ends up as heat or sound. Electric cars on the other hand are much more efficient - about 70% of what ends up in the battery goes to turning the wheels. http://ec.europa.eu/transport/urban/vehicles/road/electric_en.htm [europa.eu] .

        Then you have delivery and fuel management. With gasol

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by captainpanic (1173915)

        You were being funny, but I think it's important to point out: we produce about 14 exajoules of energy for electric power a year. We use about 28 exajoules for transportation.

        This study seemed to overlook something rather important.

        Although you have a strong point here, the energy we need for transportation would go down. We would use less if we used the much efficient electric cars. Gasoline/diesel cars produce loads of waste heat.

    • ... I bought one of these [theenergydetective.com], and based on watching my loads over time, 2 kilowatts is no big deal at all. My dryer uses way more power than that. In fact, an electric toaster uses over a kilowatt. So not only could you charge an electric SUV, you could charge an electric freaking train and still have enough capacity to spare.
  • I mean for the most part you come home, you plug your car in. So, just have the car delay and charge off peak. Not a lot of usage at 3am normally and all the cars could be happily charging away.

    • by tagno25 (1518033)

      I mean for the most part you come home, you plug your car in. So, just have the car delay and charge off peak. Not a lot of usage at 3am normally and all the cars could be happily charging away.

      Then 3am becomes a peak, and eventually there is NO peak and just a constant mid-high usage.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cgenman (325138)

        A constant mid-high usage is basically the best case scenario for a power grid. This is especially true where nuclear power plants and other electricity producers can't actually be scaled back during low-load situations.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by davester666 (731373)

      Really? Is that how you use your car right now?

      You don't go to lunch?
      Go out for dinner?
      Run to the corner store for groceries?
      Any number of other errands or other trips?

      And how many of these trips do you plan far enough in advance to also plan and schedule your car to be charged?

      More likely: drive to work for 9 am, park, plugin car and charge [along with everybody else] just so you can get home in it
      -oops, going out for lunch, need to charge car again
      -drive home
      -start charging car right away, because you m

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        More likely the car wll be like your phone. Plug it in when convenient and don't think about it too much.

      • "More likely: drive to work for 9 am, park, plugin car and charge [along with everybody else] just so you can get home in it"

        You work more than 20mi from your home? Last I heard the min mileage for these things was about 40mi per charge. So if you work, say, 15mi from your home you have 10mi a day for running errands before you have to consider a mid-day charge. Other than that allowing people to program their cars to charge only when certain circumstances are met (say, 1-6am OR battery is at 30% charge) wo

      • by Pretzalzz (577309)

        Come on. The Nissan Leaf has a 100 mile range. Lets call that about standard[indeed if the range were lower it would be instant fail], and likely to improve in the coming years. I would be surprised if most people drove more than 100 miles in a day. Certainly a 5 mile roundtrip errand/lunch wouldn't necessitate a recharge. Most people wouldn't even need to charge at work to get home in the evening. Indeed I would expect the facilities to facilitate this to be rare.

      • by cgenman (325138) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:19AM (#32883644) Homepage

        Tesla range: 160-250 miles (depending on options)
        Subaru G4e range*: 125 miles
        Mini Electric: 100 miles
        Chevy volt: 40 miles
        Coda Sedan: 90 miles
        Nissan Leaf: 100 miles

        *vehicle has not hit production yet

        • by painandgreed (692585) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:10PM (#32888696)

          Tesla range: 160-250 miles (depending on options)
          Subaru G4e range*: 125 miles
          Mini Electric: 100 miles
          Chevy volt: 40 miles
          Coda Sedan: 90 miles
          Nissan Leaf: 100 miles

          Yep, with those sort of ranges, there's not much use for electric cars. I live in a city center so for about half my car use, those might be okay. However, the other half (pre time I use a car, not milage) when I can't just walk or take the public transit, I'm heading a minimum of 50 miles away and usually more like 100+. The only car that might be useful would be the Tesla with full options. The rest effectively aren't useful enough for me to deal without some sort of gas driven car. No hiking, camping, seeing friends and family in nearby cities. If I still lived in the suburb of a midwestern city, it was not uncommon to drive 100+ miles in one night. Drive into town and shop at a store, go to a friends, go to a night club, drive home. When I was in Houston, just getting in my car to go anywhere seemed like a two hour round trip on the highway. Since in the midwest, one has to drive to anything and it's usually a significant ways away, they really don't look useful for anything.

          This raises the question, what does one do when your electric car runs out of juice? You can't really just pick up the battery and carry it to a station to recharge to get enough charge to get to that station with the car. Can a tow truck come charge you up enough to do so? Or do you have to get towed. Given the way my laptop batteries are with inaccurate readings or just cutting out when they get old, I really worry about electric cars.

  • by gearloos (816828) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:45PM (#32883078)
    Being in that particular biz, I can say I am not concerned about it. Most of our power goes to industrial loads anyway. Joe Consumer is only a real concern to us on those hot mid July afternoons when he is at work running his air conditioner at the same time as the thirty million others Joes. Now, if they were to ALL buy electric vehicles and charge them in the afternoon in the middle of the summer while at work.. hah well, I think the major load on the charging systems would either be early morning when you just get to work and plug in, or early evening when you just get home and plug in. Not exactly prime time for brown outs..
    • by RealGrouchy (943109) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:23AM (#32883340)

      I think the major load on the charging systems would either be early morning when you just get to work and plug in, or early evening when you just get home and plug in. Not exactly prime time for brown outs..

      My understanding, based on the time-of-use billing [ontario-hydro.com] coming soon to a power company near me, is that early evening when you just get home and plug in is exactly prime time for power shortages.

      You could centrally control when recharging stations activate, but is somebody plugging in at 5:30 pm because they want to recharge it overnight, or because they want to pick up their kids from (band/soccer/whatever) practise at 9pm?

      - RG>

    • So, being in that particular biz, would you like to comment on why, during the heat wave Boston suffered through much of the last few weeks, why Boston Fire Department spent most of its time responding to downed wires, transformer fires, manhole fires, etc? Seems to me like the grid is pushed to the seams already if large numbers of pieces of it are catching fire on hot days when electrical demand is highest thanks to AC units.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gnalle (125916)
      In Denmark they plan to introduce battery switch stations, where you replace your depleted battery recharged one. The batteries are owned by the recharging company, and they are charged at night when electricity is cheap. I believe that an electric car can drive aroung 60 kilometers on a battery, so a day will require a series of battery switches. http://www.betterplace.com/the-solution [betterplace.com]
  • by Entropius (188861) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:46PM (#32883082)

    The more uses of electricity we have that can be done "whenever", the better the future looks for power sources like wind and solar. Hopefully power companies will start charging different rates for on-peak and off-peak residential usage (like they already do for major industrial users), and the market will take care of it.

    • by shermo (1284310)

      Yes. Millions of batteries connected to the power system is a good thing. In some way it's like building massive amounts of pumped storage.

      No wind blowing at the moment? Then don't charge the 90% of cars which are on 'economy-charger' setting. Lots of wind blowing? Charge every car to full and use that wind!

      • by polar red (215081)

        No wind blowing at the moment?

        the total amount of wind blowing is pretty much constant. It varies a bit between places, but because the earth spins at a constant rate, and the sun puts in a constant amount of energy, the total amount of (wind mass)x(wind speed) is constant.

        • by shermo (1284310)

          Really? That's great news. Perhaps you should tell these people: www.hartlandwindfarm.com so that they don't have to build 500MW of thermal plant to backup their 2000MW wind farm.

          I thought it was obvious that my statement was referring to the amount of energy produced from wind farms. This isn't the same as 'total amount of wind blowing in the world'. Perhaps I need to explain that in future.

    • by konohitowa (220547) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:15AM (#32883282) Journal

      Hopefully power companies will start charging different rates for on-peak and off-peak residential usage...

      What a great idea. And they could market it under a clever name like "time-of-use" [google.com]or something equally catchy.

    • by Anaerin (905998)

      Hopefully power companies will start charging different rates for on-peak and off-peak residential usage (like they already do for major industrial users), and the market will take care of it.

      They already do in the UK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_7 [wikipedia.org]

    • by wwwillem (253720) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:25AM (#32883350) Homepage

      In future, it won't be enough to let a consumer make the decision on when to consume and encourage him with discounts in low peak hours. The model should be that for those loads where "time doesn't matter" we (the consumer) can indicate our constraints and then the electricity company will work within those boundaries. Of course, the more lenient the consumer is, the better rate he gets.

      For this example, if I park my car at the office I don't care if the battery gets reloaded at 11 am of after lunch. As long as it's done before I drive home at 5 PM. Same for the return trip, the car could be rechared at 11PM or at 3AM, I don't care.

      The crucial thing here is that fore heavier, but also time independent loads like this, your utility company gets control over when you are using electricity. We're still quite a bit away from that, but with smart grids, that's the way we're going.

      And it will all benefit green power that produces electricity at "unexpected moments".

      • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:24AM (#32883674)

        In future, it won't be enough to let a consumer make the decision on when to consume and encourage him with discounts in low peak hours. The model should be that for those loads where "time doesn't matter" we (the consumer) can indicate our constraints and then the electricity company will work within those boundaries. Of course, the more lenient the consumer is, the better rate he gets.

        Actually, it's quite the opposite. As a time of day electricity user, my utility sends me a forecast of power costs for the next day broken up by hour, and I can plan my energy use accordingly. So, in the future, you'll be able to tell devices in your home above what cost threshold they shouldn't run (with the devices fetching the current and predicted cost of power via a web service). So you work around the energy company and their constraints based on the market price of power in your area.

        Here is the graph from my provider:

        https://il.thewattspot.com/login.do?method=showChart [thewattspot.com]

    • They already do charge different rates to residential customers, you just need to ask for it:

      http://www.google.com/search?q=time+of+day+metering [google.com]

  • 2 kilowatts? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spmkk (528421) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:47PM (#32883088)

    I admit I didn't have time to read the study thoroughly, but:

    (a) The study specifically talks about hybrid cars, not pure electrics; the headline is misleading.

    (b) Let's take a very conservative estimate and say an electric car draws an average of 10hp when driving. That's about 7.5kw. Let's round that up to 8 for simplicity's sake, and if we assume 100% efficiency, the car needs to spend 4 minutes on the charger for every 1 minute it spends on the road. If we charge it overnight (8 hours), that's 2 hours of driving time, or 60 miles if you average (as many drivers do) somewhere around 30mph - before you have to plug it back in for another 8 hours. And that's in the absolutely best case.

    I might be missing something, but 2kw to charge sounds very unrealistic to me.

    • by chrylis (262281)

      Especially since CHAdeMO chargers [wikipedia.org] can provide up to 62.5kW...

    • The total energy used to charge the vehicles is important but the rate they charge at is not. If the cars charge fast then the load will still be spread through the off peak period because cars charging early will push the off peak period later into the night.

    • If you're assuming 100% efficiency and constant power (probably quite wrong on both counts), just have a look at the capacity of battery packs and divide by the charging time. We can look at 3 battery packs: the Prius (1.3 kWh), the Chevy Volt (16 kWh), and the Tesla Roadster (53 kWh). For an 8 hour charge time, that's approximately 160 W (Prius), 2.0 kW (Volt), and 6.6 kW (Roadster).

  • Sure.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr0bvious (968303) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:49PM (#32883098)
    Yes but plasma TVs replaced CRT TVs.

    And I expect there was a rather large switch from incandescent to compact fluorescent globes around the same time - which may have given greater savings than losses from those plasmas....

    But what on earth kind of argument is that? Electric cars wont be a problem coz plasma TVs weren't.... How absurd.
  • by BBCWatcher (900486) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:52PM (#32883116)

    The load of one plug-in recharging (about 2 kilowatts) is roughly the same as that of four or five plasma television sets. Plasma TVs hardly brought worries about grid crashes.

    Probably because households buying plasma televisions purchase one, maybe two, and they are replacing cathode tube (with shadow mask) televisions which have been consuming electric load since the 1950s. And those plasma TVs are not operating for too many hours (hopefully), never mind that LCD televisions are far more popular. It's not surprising that many people are at least more concerned when typical two-car households each might add the equivalent of 8 to 10 plasma televisions of net new electricity consumption to the grid. Thankfully that consumption should be off-peak, especially if timed chargers and peak electricity pricing are mandated, but the plasma TV analogy breaks down very quickly.

    • also you need add the cable / sat box draw running 24/7 back in the days where cathode tube ones where all over the place you did not need the cable box that much.

      With today's cable box leavening them off most of the day is not a good idea.

    • Plasma TVs doesn't take too much power, at least the new models. They always analyze the light conditions surrounding them and set brightness based on that. They also come with that setting as default.

      I won't repeat manufacturer claims as we all know they are a bit too ideal. Lets say, I connected it to a 800VA APC UPS (which, I suggest to all equipment owners) and I noticed it can feed for 15 mins along with a H264/HDTV DVR box.

      Just wait couple of months until all vendors setup their LED TV etc. contracts,

  • by Jhon (241832) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:54PM (#32883132) Homepage Journal

    The load of one plug-in recharging (about 2 kilowatts) is roughly the same as that of four or five plasma television sets. Plasma TVs hardly brought worries about grid crashes."

    I think there are roughly 2 houses on my block (of about 20 homes) that have a single plasma TV. They do, however, have at least a single car. Many of them have 2 or more. That translates as a lot of "plasma TVs" on that block.

    Also, we need to realize that they are limiting their expectations:

    Even if the U.S. alone has half a million plug-ins to recharge (out of 300 million vehicles on the road, remember) within a few years, utility executives aren't losing any sleep. In fact, they're happy. They love the idea of selling you "fuel" for your vehicle.

    Basically they are saying "Electric cars wont bring down the grid -- if they aren't widely adopted". What if, instead of half a million, there's 10-30 million? How many "plasma TVs" does it take to bring down the grid? Add to this that our current administration wants to increase the cost of our energy -- so not only will gas be more expensive, but so will electricity. What's the incentive?

    • The only thing the electric car threatens is 160 billion dollars of income every year for the 2 billion barrels of oil we wouldn't have to import for finished motor fuel, if 2/3 of the country switched to electric. There's also the terror of reliable electric drive trains, fewer moving parts, and the closure of tens of thousands of gas stations.

      http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/12/doe_study_offpe.html [greencarcongress.com]

      Current batteries for PHEVs could store the energy for driving the national average commute—about 3

    • What's the incentive?

      The incentive is you pay for electricity to fuel your vehicle, which should be much cheaper than what gasoline/diesel in the US actually costs without subsidies ($8-12/gallon).

    • "Electric cars wont bring down the grid -- if they aren't widely adopted". What if, instead of half a million, there's 10-30 million? How many "plasma TVs" does it take to bring down the grid?

      In that case, they will just convert the electric consumption to something that has a better scale, like "Libraries of Congress".

      What's the incentive?
      There is none. Around here, they say "conserve!", but if you do, then they say "we don't have the revenue we used to! Raise the rates!". Heaven forbid a union pu
  • The load of one plug-in recharging (about 2 kilowatts) is roughly the same as that of four or five plasma television sets. Plasma TVs hardly brought worries about grid crashes.

    Yes, but there are two issues with this. Firstly, most of the plasma televisions purchased replaced older CRTs. In cases where there wasn't a significant difference in screen size between the plasma TV and the CRT it replaced, overall draw would fall.

    Secondly, I really don't see the average family owning 4 or 5 50" plasma televisions

  • by SeaFox (739806) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:00AM (#32883162)

    We don't need to worry about electric cars overloading power grids, we're already doing it right now.

    You can't possibly say that the rolling blackouts and brownouts of the California power grid are "normal operating procedures" for a power system working within it's capacity, let alone a sign they have any surplus room for recharging electric vehicles.

    • by copponex (13876) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:05AM (#32883204) Homepage

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_blackout [wikipedia.org]

      Though the term did not enter popular use in the U.S. until the California electricity crisis of the early 2000s, outages had indeed occurred previously. The outages were almost always triggered by unusually hot temperatures during the summer, which causes a surge in demand due to heavy use of air conditioning. However, in 2004, taped conversations of Enron traders became public showing that traders were purposely manipulating the supply of electricity, in order to raise energy prices.

      The DoE has stated that most of the Eastern Seaboard could support the energy requirements of every single car used for commuting today, without any changes to transmission or power production, as long as the cars are charged at night.

      http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/12/doe_study_offpe.html [greencarcongress.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      Its California though, chances are they have some regulation preventing power companies from actually producing the power they need...
  • by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:00AM (#32883166) Homepage

    Just like most working people, the first thing I always do when I get home is turn on my 4 or 5 plasma TVs. Since that wasn't a problem, I'm sure the electric car I buy won't be a problem either!

    It may very well not be a problem, but that statement is goddamn stupid. Most of us aren't drawing that much power regularly when you get home.

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:04AM (#32883192)

    TV's weren't a problem. So 5 times as many won't either.

    Why are people so short-sighted. If you're running out of power now, needing way more won't help.

    That said, as I said before, capitalist societies solve enormous problems quickly, and don't big problems at all.

  • If Obama wants to do something effective, easy, and popular, he should announce a push towards electric cars. If he announced $20 billion was going this year towards research making affordable electric cars, it would do something for the environment AND would help reduce dependence on foreign oil. These are things that everyone favors. It would be good for the economy, not so much because it would create jobs, but because it would reduce the $400 billion dollars a year we spend on foreign oil. That is m
  • Vehicle to Grid (Score:3, Informative)

    by onthegrid (1854536) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:23AM (#32883332)
    After we roll out the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle-to-grid/ [wikipedia.org] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_grid/ [wikipedia.org] and technology, then electric car owners will be able to sell their power back to the grid during peak usage to prevent blackouts, then recharge their car at night. Everyone wins - the owners electric bill is reduced, the utility avoids a blackout, and everyone else enjoys their AC. So - how many electric cars would it have taken to prevent the Enron blackouts?
  • by gringer (252588) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:25AM (#32883348)

    The load of one plug-in recharging (about 2 kilowatts) is roughly the same as that of four or five plasma television sets.

    Sorry, I don't understand this idea of power rated by plasma TVs. Could you please give that in terms of the number of slow cookers required to have the same draw as one EV charge?

  • Misleading figures (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Exp315 (851386)
    How easily the misleading figures slide past and become accepted truth when nobody questions them. "The load of one plug-in recharging (about 2 kilowatts) is roughly the same as that of four or five plasma television sets."? Hardly. Current 50" Panasonic plasma TV on calibrated power settings: 215.57 watts (source CNET.com). Your math is off by a factor of 2.
  • ...does a big-ass, you-can-see-it-from-the-highway Exxon sign use?

  • by buddyglass (925859) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @12:24PM (#32888922)

    ...and the situation seemed more worrisome than this article suggests. I assumed that, eventually, people will shift to all-electric vehicles as opposed to hybrids. Below are the numbers I used. Did I flub the math? Because these calculations sure seem to suggest an electricity crunch as we move off petroleum:

    Total miles driven in the U.S. yearly: 3x10^12 mi
    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/05/us-vehicle-mile.html

    Electricity use per mile for a fully electric car: 0.17 to 0.37 kWh/mi (mean: 0.27)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_car#Energy_efficiency

    Total electricity needed to support all miles driven by fully-electric vehicles: 3x10^12 mi * 0.27 kWh/mi = 8.1x10^11 kWh

    Total yearly electricity production of the U.S. (2007): 4.157x10^9 kWh
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_of_the_United_States#Electricity_generation

    In other words, if we assume that hybrid/electric vehicles currently account for an insignificant portion of total miles driven, and we were to covert all vehicles to be fully electric, U.S. electricity production would have to increase by a factor of 194 in order to support the additional load.

  • by grumpygrodyguy (603716) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:44PM (#32890180)

    In an interview in the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, Ovshinsky stated that in the early 1990s, the auto industry created the US Auto Battery Consortium (USABC) to stifle the development of electric vehicle technology by preventing the dissemination of knowledge about Ovshinky's battery-related patents to the public through the California Air Resources Board (CARB).[3]

    According to Ovshinsky, the auto industry falsely suggested that NiMH technology was not yet ready for widespread use in road cars.[4] Members of the USABC, including General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, threatened to take legal action against Ovshinsky if he continued to promote NiMH's potential for use in BEVs, and if he continued to lend test batteries to Solectria, a start-up electric vehicle maker that was not part of the USABC. The Big Three car companies argued that his behavior violated their exclusive rights to the battery technology, because they had matched a federal government grant given to Ovonics to develop NiMH technology. Critics argue that the Big Three were more interested in convincing CARB members that electric vehicles were not technologically and commercially viable.[3]

    In 1994, General Motors acquired a controlling interest in Ovonics's battery development and manufacture, including patents controlling the manufacture of large NiMH batteries. The original intent of the equity alliance was to develop NiMH batteries for GM's EV1 BEV. Sales of GM-Ovonics batteries were later taken over by GM manager and critic of CARB John Williams, leading Ovshinsky to wonder whether his decision to sell to GM had been naive.[3] The EV1 program was shut down by GM before the new NiMH battery could be commercialized, despite field tests that indicated the Ovonics battery extended the EV1's range to over 150 miles.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_encumbrance_of_large_automotive_NiMH_batteries [wikipedia.org]

Thus spake the master programmer: "After three days without programming, life becomes meaningless." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"

Working...