How do Cities Scale up Power Grid Capacity with Influx of EVs?


With the influx of electric vehicles; how can local utilities, cities, and grid planners prepare to handle this volume? A study led by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory answers this key question.

“While the tipping point is not known, fleets of high-speed charging electric vehicles are going to change how utilities and cities manage their electricity infrastructure,” says the lead author of the study and a system’s engineer at PNNL’s Electricity Infrastructure group. “The question is when, not if.”

The study incorporates multiple factors not evaluated before, such as smart electric vehicles charging strategies and electric trucks for delivery and long haul.

Current Power Grid capable to handle 9% of current light-duty Vehicle traffic

Currently, about 1.5 million electric vehicles, mostly SUVs and EVs are on the road, according to statistics of EV Hub. For the study, the research team evaluated the capacity of the power grid in Western U.S. over the next decade. This is to gauge handling capacity of current power grids with expanding fleets of electric vehicles of all sizes, including trucks, plugging into charging stations at homes, transportation routes, and businesses.

For the study, the authors used best available data pertaining to future grid capacity from the Western Electricity Coordinating Council. The analysis revealed the maximum load of electric vehicles current power grid can handle, without constructing more power plants and transmission lines.

The overall power system is good through 2028, says the analysis. This includes power generation through transmission, to handle up to 24 million EVs – which is about 9% of the light-duty vehicle traffic currently in the U.S.

However, if the number of electric vehicles touch 30 million, things get dicey. The local power grid may face challenges even on adoption of small number of electric vehicles.

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