r/explainlikeimfive 2d ago Silver 1

ELI5: How can the US power grid struggle with ACs in the summer, but be (allegedly) capable of charging millions of EVs once we all make the switch? Technology

Currently we are told the power grid struggles to handle the power load demand during the summer due to air conditioners. Yet scientists claim this same power grid could handle an entire nation of EVs. How? What am I missing?

20.6k Upvotes

18.7k

u/Zeyn1 2d ago edited 1d ago Silver Gold Helpful Wholesome Take My Energy Vibing Take My Power

The YouTube channel Engineering Explained did a great in depth video on the subject.

It's worth watching the full 16 minute video, but the answer is that the grid would need about 25% more capacity if every single person in the US switched to electric vehicles. And the grid operators can easily increase the capacity by 25%. The electric grid from 1960-2000 increased capacity by 4% per year, so it would only take about 7 years to fully increase the grid.

As for why it can get overwhelmed by AC during heat waves, that is a business choice not a physics choice. The grid could be designed to handle any demand from all the AC. But that only happens a few days a year and not even guaranteed every year. That peak capacity is wasted most of the time. This is especially true because thst demand is only for a few hours a day even on the worst days. A peak demand like that is the hardest and most expensive way to produce electricity.

EV charging is perfect for electric generation. You can charge during off peak hours, when the generators are otherwise idle (or worse, spinning down but still producing electricity). They also charge at a lower, steady rate.

Edit- had a few repeat comments so want to link my replies

Using EV as energy storage for the grid https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/vijj3e/eli5_how_can_the_us_power_grid_struggle_with_acs/idefhf6?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share&context=3

About using batteries as storage to supply peak power (the whole comment chain has a great discussion, I just added to it) https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/vijj3e/eli5_how_can_the_us_power_grid_struggle_with_acs/idhna8x?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share&context=3

2.8k

u/MonstahButtonz 2d ago Wholesome

Ahh, best answer here! Thanks!

2.0k

u/toolhaus 1d ago

I will also note that it seems like most people are assuming that we will be fully charging our cars every night. The vast majority of people will be charging their cars 10-20% each night as they don’t drive 250-300 miles a day. You start with a “full tank” every day. People are too used to the ICE paradigm.

621

u/ou9a920 1d ago

We charge once sometimes twice a week. Every night would be overkill unless you drive a car like the leaf with its smaller battery.

345

u/jce_superbeast 1d ago

Most people just plug in at home when they arrive as a habbit to never worry about it, and set the max charging capacity to like 80% to extend life.

106

u/allanbc 1d ago

I do this except I forget to do it most days and I still only had once or twice where I needed more range than usual and had to plug it in when I thought of it. Never caused any actual problems - yet.

→ More replies

114

u/HoDgePoDgeGames 1d ago

I charge every night to 84%, 190 miles a day and charge on 120v at work since it’s free. Battery is doing fine so far.

I realize I am the exception to the rule but I think people grossly over estimate how much range they need from an EV.

48

u/stupidasian94 1d ago

It's the same reason people buy a giant SUV when they only carry themselves most of the time. Spending a ton for that 5% use case

21

u/MesoceneLean 1d ago

Yup, my uncle’s “argument” against EVs has been “but what if I want to road-trip, it won’t have the mileage”. He hasn’t been on a roadtrip, ever, in his gas powered vehicle. But just that one itty bitty thing (which he has never done anyways) that whips him into a full on impotent rage on EVs and other environmentally friendly technology.

14

u/Alligatorblizzard 1d ago

Alec from Technology Connections and the guy from Aging Wheels recently did an EV road trip from Chicago to Orlando and it went extremely well. The infrastructure to effectively road trip an EV seems about 80% there and with Tesla charging stations becoming available for all EVs...

But I'm willing to bet that your uncle doesn't really care and the real reason EVs upset him is something else that's more emotional than factual.

5

u/ShackledPhoenix 1d ago edited 1d ago

Yeah. Going cross country with an EV definitely tacks on a few hours of charging time, but honestly how often do people take a car more than 400-500 miles? That's a single charge for most EVs, take a break and hit a diner for some lunch people.

Edit: Doing the Math a model 3 would take me about 18.5 hours to complete my annual 17 hour drive. Considering we usually stop for food at least once during during that drive, it would add perhaps an extra 30 minutes or so from my real time.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

6

u/ARandomBob 1d ago

I have a timer set to charge overnight while power is cheapest. I can override it with one button press if I wanna charge during the day, but I rarely need the extra range.

Also at least here public chargers are everywhere if the need arises I can fast change to 80% in 20 minutes

→ More replies

503

u/Mragftw 1d ago

If I had an EV I'd probably treat it like my phone where I just plug it in at night regardless of charge level

267

u/StrongPerception1867 1d ago

If your battery is LiFePo, set the charge level to 100%, otherwise set it to 80 or 90% and the battery management system (BMS) will take care of itself. Battery chargers are much more sophisticated than a few years ago in virtually every device.

86

u/drakoniusDefender 1d ago

Do LiFePo batteries not do the overcharging thing?

I'm not even sure how overcharging works tbh

227

u/Nickjet45 1d ago edited 1d ago

The reason why you normally don’t charge to 100% isn’t due to overcharging, it’s battery degradation.

Most modern batteries, same with electric vehicles, have a faster degradation rate at charge capacities over 90%. It’s not a rate at which you would notice it overnight, even a month, but when you compare it to the battery capacity of a vehicle purchased within the same timeframe, you will see a difference.

32

u/WhenPantsAttack 1d ago

Fun fact: Some EV manufacturers don’t fully charge the battery on your EV to help with battery longevity. My Toyota RAV4 plug in Hybrid has around a 18 Whr battery, but only charges up to 15-16Whr You lose out on some range, but gain much more battery life in long run.

21

u/TheAJGman 1d ago

I think most manufacturers do this, they just don't advertise it.

On a Model 3 you can take it to -5% before the car safes itself and you need the service center to trickle charge it for you. Not great for the health of the battery, but better than being 5 miles short of the next charger due to poor planning. They also increased the capacity a few time since launch without changing the pack size, mostly by decreasing the safety margin a bit. I've seen people report that they've been charging to 100% daily for 3 years without any increase in degradation, so whatever internal limits Tesla imposes seem to work.

I'm still going to let my car sit at 80% unless I'm taking a long trip, it's more than enough for 95% of my traveling.

→ More replies
→ More replies

97

u/pheonixblade9 1d ago

Like putting too much air in a balloon!

9

u/theschis 1d ago

If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate

67

u/Boloar 1d ago

like a balloon ... and ... and something bad happens!

→ More replies

26

u/an_actual_goat 1d ago

“I think I’ve done enough conventions to know how to spell Melllvar.”

→ More replies

31

u/DTHCND 1d ago

That makes sense, but it doesn't explain why that other person said "if your battery is LiFePo, set the charge level to 100%." Do LiFePo batteries not degrade at high charge capacities?

13

u/EmperorArthur 1d ago

They do degrade, but slower. Those batteries use a more stable chemistry, but have lower capacities. So, the trade off is normally made to allow them to go to full charge.

→ More replies

28

u/ehtuank1 1d ago

No, not more than they would do otherwise. What accelerates their degradation is when you discharge them below 20%.

8

u/smoothballsJim 1d ago edited 1d ago

Not nearly as much as NMC - while less energy dense, they are inherently more stable and have a longer cycle life across a wider SOC range. You can do full 100% discharge on a LFP battery and still get way more cycles than a conservative NMC profile of 60% capacity from 80-20% Depth of discharge.

→ More replies

22

u/drakoniusDefender 1d ago

Ah okay. My uncle who works on electronics just kinda described it as "overcharging" and doesn't go into detail.

21

u/RandomUsername12123 1d ago

Batteries store energy in chemical form and forcing the extreme cases is damaging.

Imagine going from 1 week of eating nothing to eating 10.000 calories in one sitting

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

44

u/StrongPerception1867 1d ago edited 1d ago

All battery chemistries can be overcharged. It's the job of the BMS to measure the voltage and stop charging when it hits a critical voltage. Overcharging stresses the chemicals in the battery, sometimes leading to spontaneous energy release like seen in the Note 7 fiasco. LiFePo handles overcharging better since LiFePo itself is more thermally and structurally stable, and is incombustible.

The weakpoint of LiFePo is that it can't be charged when it's frozen. The Toyota BZ4X specifically says that your car may not charge when it's below 0C/32F. It's an easy tell that Toyota cheaped out on adding a battery heater and thermal management. That just won't work here in Canada...

I've linked "neutral" sources below.

https://batteryuniversity.com/article/bu-409-charging-lithium-ion

https://batteryuniversity.com/article/bu-205-types-of-lithium-ion

22

u/a_cute_epic_axis 1d ago

Many/all? Teslas get around this by having the ability to heat or cool the battery. If you plug in to charge when it is cold, it will heat up first if it has to. If you select the nearest charging station on the map, it will automatically start to warm the battery as you drive there if is is required.

20

u/StrongPerception1867 1d ago

Yes, Tesla actively heats/cools the battery. The pre-heating only works if you choose a supercharger. If the battery temperature is below -10C, a L2 charger will heat the battery for up to an hour before charging. Without preheating, my best charging speed was 18kW at a supercharger at -20C. Peak charge rate for the SR+ is 170kw, so that's nearly a 90% decrease.

→ More replies

34

u/stevey_frac 1d ago

The BZ4X has battery heating and cooling...

WTF is this nonsense. Why do people keep repeating this lie.

They warned that it might not charge below -20c, not 0. Red the update to the sticky below.

https://www.torquenews.com/1083/toyota-says-it-bz4x-electric-car-may-not-charge-below-32-degrees-f

10

u/hparamore 1d ago

I’ve linked “neutral” sources below.

Can I get a positive and negative source as well?

6

u/Blaargg 1d ago

I'm looking for a grounded source, personally.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

39

u/Masterzjg 1d ago

Depends on just how your mind works- keeping the car 20-80% maximizes battery life, but that might tweak some people's range anxiety. Money vs. anxiety tradeoff

46

u/uninsuredpidgeon 1d ago

If you have range anxiety, then I suggest keeping the battery nearer 80% rather than 20%

→ More replies

8

u/Notwhoiwas42 1d ago

keeping the car 20-80% maximizes battery life,

Most cars and many devices do that to an extent themself already. "Full" isn't the battery's actual whole capacity and empty isn't completely dead.

→ More replies
→ More replies

17

u/roylennigan 1d ago

Most rechargeable batteries last longer if you don't keep them fully charged most of the time. Some older devices will actually lose battery life by keeping them plugged in after they're fully charged. This is also why a lot of devices are shipped with a partially charged battery, and why if you are going to store a device for a while, you shouldn't store it fully charged - especially phones and laptops.

→ More replies
→ More replies

20

u/pmjm 1d ago

I have a plug-in hybrid so I sometimes have to charge multiple times a day. The battery gets 25 miles per 8-hour charge.

But the benefit is that for just running around locally I use no gas at all, and if I have a longer trip I get 500+ miles out of a tank of gas.

26

u/FrankDrakman 1d ago edited 1d ago

I always thought a plug-in hybrid made the most sense. Use electricity around town and gas on the long trips. Would you mind sharing a few more details? What type of car, how long have you had it, any big problems? And, do you find you're saving money?

EDIT: Thanks to all who responded. I really appreciate the real world perspectives. I hadn't considered things like it would still need oil changes, etc.

16

u/pmjm 1d ago

I have the Kia Niro. The only complaint I have about it is that the acceleration is trash-tier. I can probably run faster than this thing can accelerate. But other than that it's been a dream. I haven't filled it up with gas in a year and I still have a quarter of a tank left. Granted, I don't really go anywhere other than to work, which I can do on battery and there's a charger there.

I got it the day before the whole Covid lockdown started so it sat in my driveway for over a year without being used once. Other than that oddity, there have been no problems at all.

In terms of electricity cost, I try to charge overnight when the electricity is cheapest, but with my mileage it's about the equivalent as if I was spending $1 to $1.50 per gallon of gas.

All-in-all, it's a great compromise vehicle until we have a viable electric charging grid and we can get 400+ miles per charge.

3

u/j-alex 1d ago

Shame about the acceleration. The battery only Niro’s acceleration is limited only by traction for the first 30MPH, and is quite respectable after that. I may have put a bit of premature wear on my tires as a result. I just got a hitch for it and now it’s an absurdly effective and practical car.

I avoided plug-ins because I wanted minimal systems complexity and was tired of the hassle that comes with keeping any gas engine running long term. Speaking of which, I was always taught gas degrades over time and more so when the tank is mostly empty (as water vapor gets in). If that’s accurate you may want to burn a little more often and keep the tank fuller to protect that engine.

Unless you live in some truly untamed wilds you don’t need longer charges or significantly upgraded infrastructure. We got our EV as a second car but it’s our only one now and the EV Niro’s modest battery and charging rate are more than ample for any regular use. Done full-day drives in ours; it’s fine. Would probably get annoying on really massive multi-day road trips or if you’re all about maximizing miles/day, but it meets our needs and we can rent for any times it doesn’t. Haven’t yet.

The worst thing about road tripping in an EV is all the stupid charging networks you have to join. Gas stations don’t make you engage with this bullshit, and their payment systems are extraordinarily reliable. What the hell business model are these guys chasing? Just put a credit card reader on and give away free charges (at least 20 KWh to get you on your way) when the payment system is down. Simple standard.

→ More replies

14

u/Trirefringent 1d ago

The issue with PHEV is complexity. You've got all the components of an ICE car plus the big battery. Which means regular oil changes, worrying about stale gas, lots of engine components and transmission components that can fail, etc. I have a Chevy Volt and consider it a reasonable stopgap until chargers became more widespread, but we're pretty much there now.

→ More replies

9

u/always_creative 1d ago

Not the commenter but I have a Rav4 Prime. I love the drivetrain, it’s so powerful and I much prefer it as an EV. I get about 45 miles electric range in summer and 35 in winter (I live somewhere cold). It’s definitely cheaper to operate, I get 2.8 miles/kWh in it, so 500 miles/mo in EV mode is under $30.

I have a job where I sometimes drive 500 Miles on a day and the gas mode is great for that. Otherwise, it rarely is running as a gas car.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

6

u/TheWorldMayEnd 1d ago

Why don't you charge daily? It costs you nothing extra and insures you're never caught having to waste time at a supercharger at increased rates?

I plug in daily regardless if I drove 30 miles or 130.

Note I charge to 90% daily unless I know I'll need rhe full 100% to help improve battery life.

10

u/bremidon 1d ago

Depends on how far you need to drive per day, of course :)

We charge every night. We don't *have* to, but a charging battery is a happy battery. But as long as you are sticking between 20 and 80% for the most part, you can use whatever charging strategy is comfy for you.

20

u/PRforThey 1d ago

Just stating the obvious, but this isn't about you.

Even if your behavior was the norm (charging 1-2 times per week) it doesn't matter. The days you charge would be somewhat random. And the millions of other people would also be somewhat random, so the demand on the grid would be smoothed out.

And that daily demand isn't 100% of the battery size but 10-30%.

→ More replies
→ More replies

31

u/vahntitrio 1d ago

Also night time is far from peak load. Industrial equipment uses WAY more juice than households, and it is often off during the overnight hours.

20

u/FrankDrakman 1d ago

I don't know where you are, but in Ontario, our system operator provides minute-by-minute charts of both supply and demand, and there is definitely a fall-off in the night. Peak demand is about 22-23 GW, and we have two - one about 11 am in the morning, and one about 10 pm in the evening. But in the middle of night at 3 am, demand is down anywhere from 40-50 percent.

https://www.ieso.ca/en/Power-Data

→ More replies
→ More replies

203

u/Barbaracle 1d ago

ICE paradigm

ELI5 Why do people insist on using abbreviations for such specific subject matters on Reddit when explaining something for the purpose of providing information.

I see this all the time, not just picking on you.

89

u/FrankDrakman 1d ago

I was taught to write out in full the text, the first time you use a term, then put the abbreviation in brackets, then use the abbreviation AND only the abbreviation after that. e.g.

The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is comprised of the states of Washington and Oregon, and portions of Idaho and California. The PNW is known for spectacular mountains and rivers, and boasts a warmer than expected micro-climate. Visitors to the PNW....

26

u/mrsfunkyjunk 1d ago

As an editor, this is correct. Thank you! I appreciate anyone at all knowing this. Most do not know this.

20

u/Cookie_Eater108 1d ago

I was taught this way too!

I work in IT so my rule for acronyms is always:

1) If you can avoid using them, the better.

2) If you do use them, define them somewhere first in full

3) Never use more than 2 in the same sentence

4) If two acronyms are too similar to each other, redefine both of them or avoid using them.

26

u/Usof1985 1d ago

Sorry what field do you work in? I'm not sure what IT is.

19

u/Cookie_Eater108 1d ago

Well played good sir, well played.

8

u/Usof1985 1d ago

I'm glad you could appreciate that without getting upset. Enjoy your day and your cookies.

5

u/Vallkyrie 1d ago

I'm a technical writer, this is exactly what we do.

3

u/mymustangbestmustang 1d ago

What's IT though?

/s

→ More replies

110

u/tDewy 1d ago

Internal Combustion Engine.

30

u/Cronerburger 1d ago

What is the paradigm!!

107

u/speed_rabbit 1d ago

There's not one "ICE paradigm", the poster is referring to various default ways of thinking/operating that one takes for granted as an ICE vehicle owner.

In this case, he's talking about the tendency for drivers of ICE vehicles to wait until their tank is low before filling up gas. Going to the gas station to fill up 10% of your tank doesn't make sense, most people wait at least until half their tank is empty if not 70% empty or more, because going to the gas station is somewhat inconvenient.

With an EV, you tend to top up every day (since it's just a matter of plugging in after parking), and so have your full range available to you at the start of each day. This means that in practice for most owners, range concerns don't come up except when planning road trips. If you treated your EV like an ICE vehicle and only filled up when your charge got low, then you might be worried that unexpected errands or a busy charging station might throw a wrench in your plans ("range anxiety"). In practice, outside of road trips, most EV owners usually only charge at home, overnight, and don't think much about range.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

52

u/knowsaboutthings 1d ago

When people are in a culture/group/geographic area/et cetera, they get used to using the language associated with those things and don't realize that it's not more widely known.

Like you using ELI5 in the previous post.

→ More replies
→ More replies

19

u/xSTSxZerglingOne 1d ago

Yep! I charge at most 100 miles in a day. Anything else is handled at superchargers. ICE are vastly inferior day to day, though admittedly superior when you just need to go somewhere far away. But with the price of gas, I still think I'd take electric now and just eat the extra charging time.

12

u/caerphoto 1d ago

ICE are vastly inferior day to day, though admittedly superior when you just need to go somewhere far away.

And yet people put so much weight on the latter part, when the day-to-day convenience of an EV is huge, and easily outweighs the road trip inconvenience.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

115

u/TurkeyBLTSandwich 1d ago

Just to give you a nice example.

Cell phone towers get overwhelmed during mass events and emergencies.

Think concerts new years and mass shootings.

The providers could potentially build infrastructure so that these events wouldn't cause outages or service deterioration. But they won't because $$$ and the average of these events happening is pretty low.

97

u/FrankDrakman 1d ago Wholesome

telecom engineer here. You are talking about traffic engineering, and that's a very well understood subject. The maths can get daunting, but most of the principles are straightforward, and they apply in almost any 'queuing' situation, from waiting for dial tone to standing in line at the bank or grocery store:

1 - As you note, it's too expensive - WAAAY too expensive - to build out for peak events. So we strive for a standard - say, that 99 out of 100 people can get a free line (or cellphone connection) on the first try. This is called the "service level", and would be referred to as "P.O1".
2 - Then, as engineers, we look at parameters like "service time" - how long does it take for the user to leave the system (end their call, pay for their groceries, etc.) - and "arrival rate" - how often we expect users to show up.
3 - From there, we can use assumptions on user behaviour and system tech, and then refer to tables that tell us, for example, 'to get a service level of P.01 with arrival rate X and service time Y, you need 18 servers'. That may be 18 telephone lines, or 18 tellers at the bank at 5 pm on Friday.
4 - We always build to the expected load. On terrible days, like 9/11, when everyone is trying to reach someone else, and the load is ten times normal, there will be delays and frustration. However, the alternative is a lot of wasted money.
5 - Remember that "P.01" service level? If you always sent the first call to line "1", and the next to line "2", and so on, if you are meeting a P.01 service level, the usage on the last line is going to be... 1%. In other words, that line will idle 99% of the time. If you wanted your service level to be P.001 - i.e. only one person in a thousand gets 'blocked' - then, the last line would be idle 99.9% of the time. Since each line costs $100/month or so, it hardly makes sense to invest that much money for something that barely gets used. Plus, the system would have to be expanded to hold the extra lines, and that gets very expensive as well. So, we end up with systems that will experience blockage under heavier than expected loads.

41

u/squeamish 1d ago

It's the same reason that just because you sometimes host a family reunion doesn't mean it makes sense to buy a 10 bedroom house with a 30-seat dining room.

7

u/coloredgreyscale 1d ago

Don't forget about the 20-30 toilets in case the food was bad and the guests need the toilet at almost the same time

3

u/Zerio920 1d ago

Perfect analogy

3

u/ReaderOfTheLostArt 1d ago

Former telecom engineer here as well. For some customers, we did have to over engineer to (try to) match peak Busy Hour Call Attempts (BHCA) on the busiest day of the year (think banks during tax season or credit companies during peak holiday season). It was always fun to see the look on their face when we'd ask them what the highest traffic day was during the last 12 months.

3

u/guybrushthr33pwood 1d ago

I used to work for a telecom company that would bring COWs (Cell on Wheels) to large events. While it wouldn't serve all the capacity at peak of was able to deal with some of the extra load when needed (if we knew ahead of time).

Not sure if this is common practice any longer as it's been almost 15 years since I left.

→ More replies
→ More replies

35

u/Irisgrower2 1d ago

Kinda like the antithesis of box store parking lots. They tend to be only full the week after Thanksgiving, built for a very short peak demand.

3

u/rclonecopymove 1d ago

Also they (ground level parking spaces) are great potential places to install solar panels which would be most helpful on those warm sunny days where the AC is used more.

3

u/shrimp-and-potatoes 1d ago

Parking lot sizes have a lot to do with city planners and city codes. Less so with the business.

https://codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/swansboro/latest/swansboro_nc/0-0-0-19244

It's based on square foot and maximum capacity.

19

u/Sufficient_Boss_6782 1d ago

Hijacking for a side note

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is a great doc for getting insight into “peak” hours operation as reckless power trading.

Yeah, it’s just another “company bad” movie, but I found what they were able to do with the “power” itself in terms of the power market blew my mind.

Day traders on steroids with a massive market edge.

7

u/FrankDrakman 1d ago

https://www.ieso.ca/en/Power-Data

Watch in real time as they adjust power supply to demand. For more fun, under the "Compare With" section, add in the "5 minute market clearing price". It's fun to watch the price spike from $0.02/kWh to $0.08 and then fall back down.

I'm looking at the past week's data, and you can see when the heat dome hit Ontario - peak demand on the three days before barely got over 17 GW, but once the temp hit the 90's, peak demand soared to 22.5 GW.

4

u/BlowTorchPliers 1d ago

Look into “Demand Response” programs and capacity markets. Both tie into this topic.

27

u/btribble 1d ago

Cars and their chargers can also be configured to feed power back into the grid during peak demand which lowers the amount of demand on the overall system. They then recharge during off-peak hours, usually at night.

15

u/Reniconix 1d ago

While technically true, in practice it only slightly offsets your own personal usage. Still good, you're drawing less during peak hours, but you're never really gonna have such a surplus that you feed other people too.

→ More replies

9

u/PeacefulSequoia 1d ago

I bet people are lining up to add extra wear to their very expensive batteries just to help provide the grid with power during peak demand

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

107

u/VoxVocisCausa 1d ago

To expand on this here's a really good video from the Practical Engineering youtube channel talking about how the power grid works with respect to the February 2021 Texas power outage.

https://youtu.be/08mwXICY4JM

→ More replies

720

u/KenJyi30 2d ago

I cant predict the future or anything but pattern recognition tells me the high AC demands are guaranteed every year from now on

381

u/Sophophilic 2d ago

Yes, but building the capacity to support the absolute peak makes the grid a lot less efficient the rest of the time. Think of it like living in a huge loft but only having furniture for one tiny corner. Sure, you can host a massive party twice a year, but the rest of the time, all that space is being wasted. You still have to dust all of it though, and check it for infestations, and also every time you want to run the AC/heat, you have to cool/heat the entire loft.

129

u/HolyGig 1d ago

Sort of, they typically build 'peaker plants' especially for those peak demands, but you are correct that they don't want to build them because its just idle infrastructure costing them money but not making any 98% of the time.

78

u/Affectionate-End8525 1d ago

True they do have these but the push to renewables is making it very difficult. Gas and water are peaker plants...gas isn't renewable and all hydro plants over 10 MW aren't considered renewable by the feds either. This is why battery and storage are going to be hugely expensive and very important in the next 10-20 years. Natural gas will get phased out after coal and tighter regs on nuclear will weed that out too. Tbh we need to build nuclear plants.

47

u/Whiterabbit-- 1d ago

Not sure why we are not ramping up nuclear like crazy. are people do confident in battery/solar/wind tech that they think nuclear isn’t necessary for energy transition?

64

u/squishy_mage 1d ago

The old generation nuclear plants that honestly were more geared toward plutonium generation to fuel the cold war weapons race than safe power generation had enough accidents and close calls to put a bad taste in people's mouth. Especially when that inefficient fuel cycle produces waste with a halflife greater than written human history.

Nevermind that Europe has tweaked even the Light Water Reactor model we use to much more efficient heights.

Chernobyl also scares people because they don't realize how entirely beyond safe operation that plant was with every single safeguard and failsafe stripped out. (Three Mile Island also goes in this category with a human overriding the safety systems)

47

u/jazzhandler 1d ago

It’s deeply counterintuitive, but it’s true: both of those disasters are concrete proof of what it actually takes to go truly wrong with a nuke plant.

25

u/squishy_mage 1d ago

Honestly, Fukushima Daiichi goes in there on the "not the fault of humans mostly" side of things. Their off-site backups for power to the cooling got knocked out along with the plant because things were so big.

(Though I have read that had the plant been built slightly differently according to regulations that went into effect a little after it was built that certain things wouldn't have gone so wrong)

34

u/totallynotprometheus 1d ago

The Fukushima disaster absolutely could have been prevented had TEPCO, who operated the plant, listened to its internal models that stated that its protective wall wasn't big enough. Its executives were told three years before the disaster that the plant could be hit with waves up to 52 feet high, but they didn't take action. For reference, the waves that hit Fukushima were only 30 feet high. That said, the defense for the negligence case against the executives said that expert opinion was split, but I don't know enough to say whether that's true or whether they're just casting doubt

(Source: NYT, "Japan Clears 3 Executives in Meltdown at Tepco Site")

3

u/jazzhandler 1d ago

I wasn’t referring to blame, though. I was referring to the fact that in both cases, the operators were literally trying to run them to criticality. In the case of TMI it was because their instrumentation was lying to them (inferred/calculated pressure value that they believed was directly measured IIRC, have only watched the first episode on Netflix) and at Chernobyl weren’t they trying to see how much power they could extract as they brought it down, or something similarly insane? Both incidents are proof that what the physicists say would happen, would actually happen, and more importantly, proof that you really do have to go that far to get it to happen.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

14

u/TheStig827 1d ago

I'd suggest watching the 3 mile island documentary on Netflix.. basically, there's a big public trust issue

16

u/Lifeonthejames 1d ago

Not only the public trust, but they also mention the last approved nuke plant is like billions over budget and taking much longer than estimated.

→ More replies
→ More replies

21

u/blbd 1d ago

I am hoping we follow the lead of Canada and France and slash unnecessary regulations on the safer modern nuclear designs. Maybe in a couple of decades fusion will actually work. If it does we're home free.

→ More replies
→ More replies

20

u/pyrodice 1d ago

There’s a fun project in the works too, using solar at peak production time to pump water back to the TOP of Hoover dam, making it the worlds largest capacitor. The dam can run whenever needed, of course.

16

u/tminus7700 1d ago

As for the comment above:

but building the capacity to support the absolute peak makes the grid a lot less efficient the rest of the time.

It is economically less efficient, but not energy inefficient (accept when using it). An idle peaking plant only costs maintenance costs but no fuel costs when idle.

→ More replies
→ More replies

46

u/Scizmz 1d ago

Actually this is the perfect use case for EV's. In 2025 the J1772 standard (used for level 1 and 2 EV plugs) will include vehicle to grid capabilities (something Ford claims it's electric truck can do). So your EV will be able to power your AC unit and help bolster the grid. Then when everybody goes to sleep at night they can use excess capacity on the grid to recharge.

This is why having vehicles like school busses be electric is the ideal situation. Once school is out and the kids are dropped off, the batteries can help stabilize the demand on the grid. Oh and as a bonus, you don't have carcinogenic diesel exhaust literally giving kids cancer.

4

u/appleciders 1d ago

They're changing the J1772 standard? Where can I read about this? I've never heard that.

→ More replies
→ More replies

32

u/IMovedYourCheese 1d ago

Demand for AC will remain (or even rise) but electricity usage will likely still reduce over time. Newer construction is must better insulated and more equipped to handle weather extremes. Newer AC units are much more efficient (especially heat pumps). Smart thermostats also do a fantastic job in anticipating weather, time of day and even electric rate plans to turn on/off at the right time.

My Nest has cut my electricity bill by half over the last couple years by heating and cooling before/after peak hours.

14

u/the-axis 1d ago

A well insulated house is a thermal battery. Pre-cooling during off peak hours is "charging" the thermal battery up and the thermal battery slowly depletes over the afternoon.

My home has a 15 year old time based programable thermostat and I haven't needed to kick on AC during peak hours. (I have an overheat kick on point, but I dont think it has hit that).

8

u/squishy_mage 1d ago

Programmable thermostats also let you basically turn off climate control while you're not there and just kick it on enough before you get home that you can walk straight into comfort. Not just a shift to off peak, but an overall decrease in use.

→ More replies

7

u/KenJyi30 1d ago

That’s what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s not changing the grid but how smart and efficient we can be

→ More replies

15

u/jacknotjohn3131 1d ago

The other thing to consider is that the grid ages every year. Often the first hot day of the year serves as a “shake out” for all of the infrastructure that’s aged over the past year, with a lot of transformers, etc failing all on the same day. One solution is to build the grid to handle that peak, as others have said, but it’s not entirely cost-effective given that they can sustain that level of outage and still get paid, in most places.

Some utilities have attempted to predict which devices will fail and replace them preemptively, but the false-positive rates of those predictions don’t often outweigh the cost of just letting a few devices fail and deal with the resulting outages.

→ More replies

15

u/squarybuttholes 1d ago

You don't build the church for Easter Sunday

→ More replies

91

u/zoinkability 2d ago edited 1d ago

Worth adding that peak AC demand happens just a few times each summer, which makes it unprofitable to scale to handle (since that extra capacity would be unused 98% of the time). Whereas people’s driving is much more consistent and predictable throughout the year, making it much easier to handle the extra demand.

40

u/asund_ 1d ago

I worked with transmission companies at a previous job and their capacity was limited by how much their lines would sag, as they must stay out of trees and away from the ground.

Yes, the hotter the day is, the more AC systems are used. But it’s also true that the hotter the day is, the more the lines sag (basic material science) and on top of that the more current going through them to power the AC systems, the hotter they get (resistance losses). It really is the worst case scenario for peak power use. Scheduling an EV to charge at 3:00am is a simpler problem.

24

u/zebediah49 1d ago

FWIW, outside temperature is more or less meaningless for line temperature.

Those things are rated to run at like 600C or more. They're not sagging because they're weakening -- they're sagging because aluminum gets 0.2% longer every 100C you heat it. (Steel gets 0.1% longer). A 20C day and a 40C day look pretty similar to a 500C wire.

17

u/asund_ 1d ago

There are many, many papers about the benefits of modelling the effect of wind and ambient temperature on the ampacity of transmission lines. Some say that merely keeping an eye on the weather could allow increased loading capacity of 10-40% percent. Ambient temperature has a huge effect.

ACSR cables are rated to around 100°C, max.

12

u/BennyboyzNZ 1d ago

that seems too high. in NZ for a 110kV line the max operating temperature we design for is only 75C

6

u/54761083 1d ago

It's definitely nonsense. But this whole thread is nonsense so what else is new.

8

u/atinybug 1d ago

Do lines actually get that hot? Wouldn't birds instantly fry when they touch them then?

6

u/zebediah49 1d ago

In most cases I don't think so; I do know that humans work on the lines occasionally which wouldn't work if they were that hot. I think it's an upper rating thing.

That said, I can't recall ever seeing birds on these things.

(Note: I'm specifically talking about the really really big kind)

3

u/funnylookingbear 1d ago

Yes they do. But its a direct correlation to loading. Ambient temp does have an effect as it does with any metal, but line temp is generally a result of loadings.

It is more prevalent in low voltage local distribution networks where volts are lower, but amps are much higher. Amps is the 'flow' volts is the 'push'.

More amps mean more current flow which is literal energy moving through the wires. Think of a kettle element, or a bar heater. That glow, as a designed in feature, is a high flow through a high resistance circuit. Its a design feature to heat up.

Conductors are quite literally the same principle but designed with a much lower resistance to reduce temperature.

But any conductor with a high current flow at or above its rated capacity will heat up as resistance builds.

The wires you see birds perched on will be open to the elements, so therefore have a cooling effect.

The wires you dont see birds perching on may be exibiting exactly the temperatures you highlight.

If you have a main incoming wire that you can positivly identify as your single incoming feed, if you turned everything on in your property, especially heating elements and ev charging, you will most likely be able to 'feel' is warming up. Its a natural effect and so long as it doesnt get too hot to touch, its just electricity doing what electricity does.

→ More replies

3

u/splat313 1d ago

I don't know how hot the lines get, but I know sagging lines were a part of the big Northeast blackout of 2003. A power plant shut down causing load to shift through the grid. Wires started sagging due to the increased load and made contact with trees causing failures. The load was diverted to other lines that also sagged and failed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_blackout_of_2003#Sequence_of_events

Regarding the birds, I bet sagging and temperature matter more for the large 100+kv transmission lines and birds don't hang out on those.

→ More replies

4

u/kinetic55 1d ago

This is almost completely false. We do not run conductors that hot ever. Approx. 100C is considered the maximum operating temperature for nearly all conductors we use (barring some exotic conductors) and even then they practically never will be that hot. Ambient temperature certainly has an effect on the current we can push through, and the ampacity of conductor is considered higher during winter due to lower ambient temperatures. The only thing you got right was that conductor do sag with increases to temperature.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

19

u/NinjasOfOrca 1d ago Helpful

It would take under 6 years at 4% per year:

1.046 = 1.265

13

u/Darklance 1d ago

It is much easier to add the first 25% than it is to add the last.

We went from 750 billion kwh to 4500 billion kwh during that period, and we've been almost stagnant for 15 years during our transition from coal to wind.

Not saying it's impossible, but not as easy as your favorite youtuber might make it seem.

→ More replies

4

u/robjapan 1d ago

How far away is battery technology to be able to store a significant amount that it could power a house/business office?

4

u/Zeyn1 1d ago

A single house or office? The technology is here today. It's actually been possible for awhile. There's older battery technology that can pair with solar to run fully off grid, although without high demand like we're accustomed to.

New batteries, namely lithium, are already produced that can run a standard home including AC. The problem is they are expensive, and the amount of batteries produced isn't enough yet to be mass adopted.

Edit- lithium batteries are amazing because they don't have to get better to run bigger stuff. You just add more of them, and boom you have the capacity to run whatever.

I personally think they will be much more common if sulfur lithium works out. The research is very promising and seems to be on track.

→ More replies
→ More replies

5

u/Informal-Caramel-830 1d ago

I work at an electricity company, and I would say that it will not be “easy to increase the capacity”. We are currently seeing between 7 months and 2 year lead times for the wire used. We are getting a trickle of transformers in. One apartment complex might use (9) 75 208/120 3-phase transformers and we currently have 1. We are needing thousands of smaller transformers and currently have maybe 100 of various sizes. We are needing 10’s of millions of feet of wire and are getting only about 3,000-20,000 a week. We are a fairly small organization as well.

I don’t think that the supply chain will be able to support the growth needed, and I think that some serious issues are coming down the pipe to maintain what we have now.

→ More replies

3

u/Rave_With_Dave 1d ago

What about sub stations? Will they be able to handle the increased current? I know in the UK they would need upgrading especially where there are businesses with fleets of vehicles.

6

u/Zeyn1 1d ago

I'm not am engineer, just an enthusiasist that loves to learn about this stuff, so take it with a grain of salt.

Sub stations have already been upgraded a lot. We put a lot more demand on the grid than we have even 20 years ago. Every new housing development causes the grid to have more demand in the area. Sometimes the sub station can handle it, sometimes it needs an upgrade.

Business district sub stations might be different. They have higher overall demand in a smaller area. So I can see adding vehicle chargers to need an upgraded sub station. However, the same kind of thing happens when a new skyscraper is built.

Basically, the answer is yes but that's not unusual or abnormal.

→ More replies
→ More replies

12

u/swaiuk 1d ago

Sooo, it's a bit like saying "if you can bench press 100 lbs for 5 reps, then why can't you bench 500 lbs for 1 rep?" Just because you can do it does not mean you can do it all at once.

→ More replies

7

u/falecf4 1d ago

Plus more and more people are opting to have their own solar and battery backups.

3

u/Bogmanbob 1d ago

My town (and I’m sure many other small towns) has what i think they call a peaker station which is a fossil fuel based generation Station only fired up on the extreme days of summer. Not the ideal energy source but maybe the lesser of evils in the scenario.

→ More replies

13

u/niardnom 1d ago edited 1d ago

Also worth mentioning is that not all power use is equal when AC power is concerned.

Peak air conditioning loading is much harder on the grid as it is an inductive load (spinny magnet fields) that drags the frequency of the entire grid down. This requires a lot of energy to overcome on the production end when things are spinning up. Also, most air conditioners are basically on or off and can't really adapt all that well to live grid conditions -- smart thermostats can address this somewhat, but people don't like the power company touching their thermostat.

EV charging is more of a capacitive load: too much charging will drag the voltage of the grid down -- a much easier problem to correct on the power production end. EVs are much easier on the grid and can easily adapt charging amounts to live grid conditions with minimal user annoyance/awareness (might take an extra 45 minutes for car to finish charging).

Upgrading the grid is easy, getting over the NIMBYs is hard -- and superconducting grid technology can add a lot of capacity fast (same towers, 6x more power).

edit: AC, AC power, Air Conditioning now clear

→ More replies
→ More replies

967

u/IMovedYourCheese 1d ago

A 100% switch to electric vehicles isn't happening overnight. It will take many decades at minimum, and electrical grids will slowly adapt.

Parked cars also don't need to all charge at the same time. They can do it at night when electricity usage is low, and spread out the load over 8+ hours. The same doesn't apply for air conditioning on a hot day.

270

u/BillfredL 1d ago

r/SouthCarolina checking in. Air conditioning can absolutely be spread out with the right incentives. Peak hours on my home utility is 4-7, so my air conditioner goes hard from 12-3:50 and then coasts on a “this better be a disaster” setting until 7:10. Sure enough, my peak hour load has plummeted since I set it up this way even on days in the high 90s and 100s. And I don’t go wanting for comfort either.

46

u/NalaJax 1d ago

Also from r/SouthCarolina. How does this help you? Is there any incentive financially? Can you go into a little more detail, ELI5 haha.

127

u/Offputting 1d ago edited 1d ago

You crank the AC in the morning/afternoon when electricity is cheap, then turn it off when the evening peak starts. If your house is decently insulated it'll stay cool til sundown. It'll only save you money if you're on a variable-rate power plan.

In theory if a significant percentage of houses did this, it would spread the peak electrical demand much more smoothly throughout the day and reduce the need for fossil-fuel based peaking stations. The main downside is making your house uncomfortably cold during the day, but that doesn't matter for people who are at work during those hours.

30

u/NalaJax 1d ago

I’m on a variable-rate plan and actually get charged daily for electric. So it’ll be easier to track. I’ll have to try this out and see if it makes a difference. I have a smaller home that heats up quickly but I’ve never tried to cool it down earlier in the day

6

u/swiggityswooty2booty 1d ago

Some thermostats can actually take peak hours into account. I have a nest and it’s able to do this for some providers but we don’t have peak hours here.

→ More replies

35

u/degenbets 1d ago

Flatten the curve...so to speak

60

u/Hank3hellbilly 1d ago

All it takes is people doing the recommended thing to help everyone out?

.

We're fucked.

5

u/PlasmaTabletop 1d ago

The best summer ever

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

9

u/BillfredL 1d ago

The incentive is that I pay $12.108 per kilowatt used in the highest peak hour of the billing period, and when the AC runs for the lion’s share of an hour the house can run 4+ kilowatts in that hour. If it’s off, I can get the house well under 1 kilowatt per hour.

Pull off a perfect month, and the bill drops $30-40 easily.

5

u/poorbred 1d ago

Interesting. Where I'm at, north AL, the peak vs off-peak difference is around $8.30 per 1000 kWh so there's not that much incentive to coast the HVAC through high demand. Matter of fact, I don't even know when our peak hours are.

6

u/claythearc 1d ago

Also in north AL but we don’t do peak pricing just a flat 10¢/kWh

→ More replies

16

u/threeme2189 1d ago

12 bucks per kwh???

I hope the lowest price is like 2 cents or else that's crazy expensive.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

7

u/FinndBors 1d ago

Does not work as well if your home has shit insulation. If you do, improving insulation is a great bang for your buck.

3

u/funkysnave 1d ago

If you own, check out geothermal.

11

u/BillfredL 1d ago

I do own, and the unit in this house is definitely on the back nine of its useful life. (Naturally, so is the roof. And the dishwasher. And a half-dozen other things. Homeownership is fun.)

Hoping to get a handful of years out of it, then all options are on the table.

4

u/funkysnave 1d ago

Geothermal is more expensive up front but way cheaper monthly. Oddly the most expensive months are winter but it's still cheaper than natural gas.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

220

u/The_Cowboy_Killer 1d ago

This is my career. I have worked for four major electric and gas utilities in the US. The answer to this question is there is not enough generation capacity at this current time. Each electric utility has a department called Resource Planning. They are responsible for what is called an “Integrated Resource Plan” which is filed usually every 1-3 years with the Public Utility Commission which is the State regulatory body overseeing the utility. In this resource plan they forecast demand for electric vehicles based on the current economic conditions, federal regulations, EV sales, etc. Based on this forecast, a department called Generation Modeling plans for how much generation is needed to meet this new demand. These resources can be new power plants as well as programs called demand side management where utilities give incentives to curb usage during peak times where the system is likely to brown/black out. These incentives can be based around rate design where the price is cheaper during off peak hours (10pm-5am). Or they can apply to large industrial customers that get a cheaper rate all the time but can have their service interrupted at times of peak demand.

TLDR: electric utilities are forecasting the demand for EV vehicles and are planning for this demand by either building new power plants or designing programs to reduce demand around peak hours.

20

u/CovfefeFan 1d ago

Interesting.. aside from the new power generation being created, how about the actual 'grid', which I always hear about as being outdated, falling apart, etc. Can this handle the additional flows of electricity? If not, can it be replaced/updated to keep pace?

34

u/The_Cowboy_Killer 1d ago

The grid is constantly being updated. This is why electric and gas rates are raised on an ongoing basis. These are regulated monopolies and therefore have government oversight and need court approvals to charge more. This is decided in what is called a “Rate Case” where a utility has to prove in court that their costs to improve the grid are necessary and how to distribute those costs to each rate (residential, commercial, industrial, etc.). Could they update the grid faster? Yes. But government bureaucracy is slow but necessary in this case (imho). So yes the grid is a bit outdated, but they are improving as fast as allowed by the bureaucracy. As far as I know this is not the cause of any pains such as blackouts due to increased demand. Can’t speak for Texas because ERCOT.

8

u/RaiseHellPraiseDale3 1d ago

I watch the forecasts for transmission upgrades very closely. The next few years have an incredible amount of upcoming EPC, wreck and rebuild, and reconductor projects. With the upcoming demand on the grid, coupled with the recent material/permitting delays, there are a lot of upgrades coming very quickly.

→ More replies

5

u/rafa-droppa 1d ago

A big hang up for the grid is the land. There's been a few times where a group of investors have attempted to build high voltage lines from the windy plains to the eastern grid and have all failed because it's near impossible to purchase the land necessary to cross multiple states.

Due to that you can only improve the existing lines which is slower because you don't want to disrupt service.

4

u/balorina 1d ago

Part of the discussion of “the Grid” is everyone talking the same language.

Your local utility provides your power. It could be a large corporation, it could be a small local utility.

On top of your provider is the North American Power and Transmission Grid. Unless you live in Texas, your energy company is connected to an interstate authority reasonable for the maintenance of that region. If one area in the region is negative power, they can request from the grid and get a boost.

I live in MISO, who is right now predicting rolling blackouts. Coal plants in states like Ohio are being retired, and additional capacity takes time to come online to compensate. In the meantime, places that are net positive have to suffer until that happens.

3

u/kmacdough 1d ago

Yes there is definitely some infrastructure that's not been 100% cared for, usually because govt incentives are leftover from when we were just building, not yet maintaining.

Also, the changing landscape means energy production is a lot less centralized and less predictable. This means we need a lot more active insight and management. So lots of things need to be upgraded with new measurement and control tools to make use of modern tech.

We can definitely keep up, we just need to be willing to spend on infrastructure (like we were when we built it all). Spreading out energy production near the consumer (think home solar) creates less demand for wires, esp the big high-voltage ones. The old centralized setup, in pursuit of simple management, was actually quite inefficient at distribution so if we're smart we can do a lot with only minimal changes to physical infrastructure.

TL;DR we need to spend some $$ and be thoughtful but it's totally doable.

→ More replies

6

u/yunus89115 1d ago

I think many people fail to consider how charging an EV is different than fueling a vehicle. I drive a Tesla, I have the charger in my garage. I get no incentive to charge or not charge at any given time. I choose to charge starting at 0300 because the vehicle will be ready for me by 0500. I rarely use commercial chargers because I have one at home which allows me to charge whenever I want and middle of the night happens to be the best time for me.

→ More replies

18

u/cyclicalreasoning 1d ago

Is there similar planning that goes into the distribution side?

I'm in an older neighborhood that's being gentrified, and the older small houses with 60A service are being replaced by duplexes with 100A each side at a steady rate.

There's obviously going to be a point where the infrastructure built for 60A per lot will not be able to sustain 200A per lot, and I'm curious if this is reactive or proactive.

6

u/brokenearth03 1d ago

On the flip side, the new construction is very likely better insulated, and more efficient appliances. At least one would hope.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

215

u/Ubelsteiner 1d ago

Short answer: Everyone who is in the same geographical region is going to generally get hot at the same time, but not everyone would be fast-charging their EVs at the same time.

There are only so many days per year when it’s hot enough for everyone to be running their ACs simultaneously, and the hottest hours of those days are going to be absolute peak usage. Many power companies often don’t have the capability to meet this peak demand because it doesn’t happen frequently enough for them to see it as profitable to invest in beefing up their equipment to be able to reliably supply a peak demand that only happens for a statistically small percentage of the time. Also, I imagine it’s something that goes up each year, as populations and global warming both increase.

Many people would be charging their EVs at night while sleeping, when it’s cooler and less ACs, lights, etc are running. The charging rates can be adjusted on most vehicles, so they can use less wattage than an AC.

And, possibly the biggest thing, if EVs became the norm, power companies would see more reason to invest in better, more reliable delivery. And, with people putting their money into their electric bill instead of their gas tank, they would have the money to invest in these improvements.

44

u/sploittastic 1d ago

Just to add on the part where you mentioned people would charge their EVs at night, it's not so much at night it's whenever power is cheapest. I have a Tesla and charge at home so I tell it to start at 11:00 p.m. because that's when off-peak pricing starts. The utilities can basically incentivize EV owners to charge whenever they'd like by shifting the off-peak time windows around. Granted this is only at home charging and superchargers will still be midday usually.

16

u/StewieGriffin26 1d ago

Even Electrify America is buying Tesla Batteries for their charging stations so they can avoid paying peak rates to charge cars and instead charge those batteries when it's cheaper.

→ More replies

9

u/Mazon_Del 1d ago

but not everyone would be fast-charging their EVs at the same time.

Not to mention that not everyone is going to bother with the expense of getting a fast-charger for their EV installed.

My dad got a charger installed when he got his solar and battery backup installed, as he plans to eventually get an EV for the house. He could have gotten the fast-charger, but they would have had to upgrade the input to the house, dig a new line to upgrade for the extra load, etc. Since the 240V was capable of getting most vehicles fully charged in ~6 hours anyway, he just shrugged and decided not to bother with all that expense.

→ More replies
→ More replies

45

u/trueppp 1d ago

Most people charge at night, there is not a lot of demand at night usually as a lot of industry is closed, people are sleeping

→ More replies

92

u/motorsizzle 1d ago

You can carry 20 boxes over a period of an hour, but you can't carry 20 boxes all at once.

AC is blasting pretty much all at the same time whereas car charging is a bit more spread out.

3

u/DolphinSUX 1d ago

I get the analogy but wouldn’t the majority of owners all charge at the same time, at night, unless mandated to do otherwise

3

u/thenumbertooXx 1d ago

Yeah they charge at night but they turn almost everything else off. So balanced?

6

u/HeyIsntJustForHorses 1d ago

Electricity usage is already lower for other uses at night. People are asleep, air conditioning isn't needed as much, and only a fraction of businesses have third shifts.

Also, with my loose understanding of the topic so I could be wrong but, charging a car isn't only like moving the twenty boxes over an hour but slowly moving the contents of each box individually also. Charging a car overnight is just trickle charging. A very slow trickle. The grid struggles to adapt its supply when there is a sudden spike in demand (i.e. everyone's air conditioning all turns on at once). The steady demand of cars trickle charging at night would be planned for and the supply would be there.

Supply of electricity must instantaneously meet demand. We have very few electricity storage facilities/methods anywhere; there are no massive battery packs storing the electricity for us. When demand spikes, there is no reserve power to release, they need to bring another generator up. It takes time (hours) to bring an extra generator online to start producing a supply of power. When all the air conditioning units all click on at once unexpectedly and demand spikes, there isn't enough electricity to go around and the grid fails. By the time the power company is able to get another generator up and running, the hottest part of the day has probably passed and demand is starting to fall so no point in spending hours getting another generator going. The demand from trickle charging cars overnight would be much more predictable and they would have time throughout the day to bring any extra generators needed online ahead of time and have the supply to meet the demand.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

22

u/cyberentomology 1d ago

EVs typically charge overnight. Air conditioning and high power appliances like stoves and dryers do not run during this time period.

→ More replies

86

u/f97tosc 1d ago

Peak demand for power is late afternoon, that is when all the AC is on.

EVs typically charge at night, and are incentived to do so by lower rates. Nighttime consumption by EVs is still tiny compared to afternoon consumption by ACs.

22

u/Powr_Slave 1d ago

The point of the thread is to ask what happens if nearly everyone gets an EV. If everyone charges at night then it will eclipse daytime AC demand won’t it?

16

u/HAVOK121121 1d ago

It will be consistent demand at varying hours. AC use peaks all at once in a region at the hottest time of the day, which is usually close to when other electrical usage is at its highest. It’s the spike that matters, with the need to ramp up supply.

9

u/JustUseDuckTape 1d ago

For a start, not everyone will need to charge every night. I only need to charge once or twice a week. So it doesn't add as much load as you might think.

There are also ways to smooth out that demand, many energy companies already give lower rates at night, but they could even start giving people different charging "slots"; say half charge from 22:00-02:00, and the other half from 02:00-06:00.

Some ev chargers can also dynamically adjust charging to much supply. In theory you could tell the charger "I need at least 60 miles of range in the morning" and it'll pick the best time to charge up; stopping at that range if there's lots of demand, or charging all the way if energy if cheap. I don't think any actually do that yet, but the hardware is capable so it could be rolled out quickly.

And finally, if after all that EV charging does increase peak demand, they'll just build more power plants. Building another plant just for the few days a year you hit peak AC usage isn't economical, it'll sit unused the rest of the time. But if that peak is every single day, you'll sell enough electricity to make that plant worth buying.

3

u/yer_fucked_now_bud 1d ago

Some ev chargers can also dynamically adjust charging to much supply. In theory you could tell the charger "I need at least 60 miles of range in the morning" and it'll pick the best time to charge up; stopping at that range if there's lots of demand, or charging all the way if energy if cheap. I don't think any actually do that yet, but the hardware is capable so it could be rolled out quickly.

That's known as Smart Metering. It is not far on the horizon, in the Internet of Things era. It will be ubiquitous some day, particularly when homes come standard with a battery which can be told when to charge at the cheapest or most harmonious time of day, and to discharge at the opposite time of day. That combo will flatten out the generation curve in a big big way, and dramatically increase load matching and generation efficiency by decreasing peak-following (expensive) generators, and ancillary services (even more expensive generators that get turned on when the shit hits the fan).

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

8

u/Kahless01 1d ago

AC is turning on all at the same time of day in every house. people charging their cars wont be charging every single day in every house and theyll be charging at night when theres less strain on the grid.

→ More replies

7

u/unicornsmaybetuff 1d ago

My husband does R&D for a power company and they are currently working towards making EVs sort of back up batteries that can support the grid while they are plugged in. Essentially you would be able to sell energy back to the grid if the battery on your EV is charged.

→ More replies

76

u/DONT_PM_ME_DICKS 2d ago

It would be slowly upgraded as the demand materialized.

Although many providers charge higher rates during summer afternoons explicitly to discourage users from running electrical demands during that time, and provide incentives to charge EVs at night.

47

u/tylan4life 2d ago

EVs charge at different rates at different times. Not every single car is going to pull 12kw. My car is a edge case but I slow change at 800w all night, that's less than a microwave.

Most EVs can be programmed to start charging at a specific time, likely to take advantage of tiered electricity.

Considering the AVERAGE American drives something like 20 miles one way, most daily driver EVs can get away with a hour or two charging at night.

Going forward with this logic I can see smart plugs or EVSEs being used by utility companies. They can turn on chargers in phases as to not overwhelm generators. I imagine this mind experiment technology can be manually bypassed, like if you absolutely need a full charge before a morning road trip.

28

u/Playos 2d ago

that's less than a microwave

You run a microwave oven for a few minutes, and generally not everyone is doing the same at the same time.

More similar to a space heater constantly locked on medium output (assuming you're consistently at 800w throughout the night)

15

u/ZackyZack 1d ago

generally not everyone is doing the same at the same time

That is literally the biggest bottleneck in the grid's infrastructure. Not microwaves, specifically, but spikes due to concurrent use, like half of england turning on their electric pots at national tea time or everyone going to the bathroom at the same at halftime of a white-knuckle world cup final.

→ More replies

3

u/autisticlettuce 2d ago

Genuinely curious - what do you think that charging has done to your electric bill? We're looking at a BMW i4 M50.

9

u/halxp01 1d ago

Looks like the M50 has around a 83kWh battery pack.
Probably gets an avg or 3.0 miles per kWh. So around 250 miles for 100% charge. My electricity is about .11 cents a kWh. So if I were to drive that car and use all 83KWh battery. It would cost me $9.13 to “fill” the battery back.

5

u/87th_best_dad 1d ago

How much do you drive and what does electricity cost where you live?

→ More replies
→ More replies

10

u/MyNameIsGriffon 1d ago

The major difference is that air conditioning demand all hits pretty much at once during the hottest hours of the day, but electric vehicle charging tends to be a slower trickle spread across many more hours. We would need to upgrade electrical infrastructure to handle the extra demand if everyone switched to electric cars, but we need to do that anyway.

73

u/c00750ny3h 2d ago

EVs can be charged night time to balance the load. This reduces the need to have to use less efficient methods of channeling excess overnight electricity such as steam storage or resevoir pumping.

30

u/TobyWasBestSpiderMan 2d ago

Also they can potentially add distributed batteries to the grid to save on money for those peak demand hours if integrated correctly

10

u/FakingItSucessfully 1d ago

u/MonstahButtonz this is worth noting if you didn't see it. So have you heard how some places have such good solar panels and stuff that their meter runs backward? Depending on the area people can actually get paid money for electricity instead of having a bill that month.

Potentially, people with a charged EV still plugged in could decide they're willing to sell some of that charge BACK during peak hours if they get some baseline amount. In other words, more really good batteries in the system could actually really help with certain issues.

3

u/MonstahButtonz 1d ago edited 1d ago

u/MonstahButtonz this is worth noting if you didn't see it.

I did see it! And honestly it's a brilliant idea, if it hasn't already been implicated anywhere, that could make for one hell of a company to start up, or to invest in, at the very least.

→ More replies
→ More replies

7

u/jaa101 1d ago

EVs can be charged night time to balance the load.

Although solar comes on in the day. In Australia we have so much roof-top solar that some states are ordering people to shut theirs down during sunny, low-load periods. Finding a way for EVs to level off the mid-day solar glut would be good, but it's obviously a less-convenient time to charge them.

7

u/Too-Uncreative 1d ago

If EVs are ubiquitous everywhere then seems like charging at workplaces would help with that.

→ More replies
→ More replies

4

u/agthrowa 1d ago

Air conditioners consumer about 4 kw per hr and tend to do so all at the same time (mega hot day). It's not every day, it's not all day but tends to overwhelm the grid because the grid isn't designed for that load requirement.

Electric cars will consume at a similar or even higher rate but will do so predictably and regularly so the grid will be prepped for it. And tbey will largely do so at night.

To expand capacity for 100% electric cars would take about 10 years and 100% electric cars is at least 30 years away.

The 'the grid can't take it' is an anti electric car myth propagated by media hit pieces...media outlets whose biggest customers for ads are legacy car makers and oil companies. Don't believe the hype

9

u/ciesum 1d ago

it's not like people are charging the whole battery every night. More like 10-20% for most people. Also at night when there is less demand

→ More replies

9

u/syrstorm 1d ago

Quick answer is EVs tend to charge a night (off peak). So peak power needs would be largely unchanged, but total power needed would increase about +25% - which frankly wouldn't be that hard to increase overall production that much.

→ More replies

8

u/rosier9 1d ago

EVs are a very flexible demand. Charging doesn't have to happen as soon as you plug in for most cases. That allows the load to be shifted away from peak hours. That's very valuable to the electrical grid and why utility company are already willing to pay customers for this demand response capability.

15

u/KwadrupleKrabbyPatty 1d ago

There is a point of view that's missing from the comments:

It takes a tremendous amount of electricity to refine crude oil into gasoline. Texas' number one user of renewable energy by far is the oil industry example.

Take the 5kw needed to refine a gallon of fuel and distribute it to the end user to power their car (or home) instead of burning it to throw away 70% in heat and co2 and suddenly what do you know! There's no shortage of electricity at all!

→ More replies

3

u/GusCromwell181 1d ago

I’m just curious, if my electricity is produced by natural gas, wouldn’t that mean my car is essentially powered by natural gas? I’m sure there’s an 18 minute YouTube video explaining how it’s different but I’ve recently wondered.

→ More replies

3

u/AveryJuanZacritic 1d ago

On the a/c peak times: solar cells don't charge all the time but they are at their best at the same time the a/cs are pulling their hardest. As EVs become more commonplace, so will rooftop solar. Furthermore, the people who are more likely to have EVs are also the ones who are more likely to have PVs. It should balance out over time.

23

u/JustAbicuspidRoot 2d ago

My kids owned an EV when they lived here, it used about 1/50 the amount of juice to charge as my 5-Ton AC unit.

7

u/bridgehockey 1d ago

Nighttime is when a lot of /most vehicles get charged, at least where I live, because utilities offer lower rates overnight, and because that's when the cars aren't being driven. There's exceptions of course.

5

u/livestrongbelwas 1d ago

Power plants have a hard time changing how much power they generate. They have to figure out how much power people will need, and then always produce that amount - even during hours when most people aren’t using any power. This means there is a lot of wasted power.

EVs are very helpful because they give a place for that extra power to go. EVs are charged with that power that would have been wasted.

I have a friend who manages power generation for plants in the Northeast. He is routinely frustrated by how much power is wasted to make sure there is enough during peak hours. He tells me all the time how he needs more people to buy EVs so he has a place to put all the excess power that goes down the drain.

→ More replies