To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the grid's demise on account of more plug-in vehicles are greatly exaggerated. And, while time is money, when it comes to electric-vehicle charging, more money means less time. At least, less time during peak demand.

Plug-in vehicle owners in a cluster of Austin, Texas homes were used as a charging-behavior test group, and the early returns say that those households didn't put much of a stress on the local power grid. And that's even during peak-use summer afternoons when air conditioning units in central Texas tend to be set to full blast, Midwest Energy News says, citing a report from Pecan Street Research Institute. The test included 21 Chevrolet Volts, nine Nissan Leafs and a solitary Tesla Model S. Of course, make 'em all Teslas and we might have a different story.

Additionally, half of those 30 vehicle owners were also part of a test in which the electricity price was adjusted to reflect peak demand times. Not surprisingly, those car owners were about half as likely (about 12 percent of those) to plug-in during peak hours as the ones whose prices weren't being adjusted (about 22 percent). Regardless, the average cost of electricity used by those vehicles per month came out to $23.56, or the equivalent to about half a tank of gas. Yee-haw, indeed.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 30 Comments
      EZEE
      • 1 Year Ago
      What an odd story. I can imagine if you are in a small town with an aging infrastructure and they have only a single grid feed and 4,000 EV's show up for Woodstock 3, and all plug in at once, but in a regular area, with only the numbers listed? There is excess capacity, and of course, the only time a high percentage would be plugged in would be at night (when people turn off stuff and their HVAC systems are running on low, or off). Will more electricity be used? Sure. Will it blow the grid? Please....
        TIMMAH!
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EZEE
        Yes it's a big "duh!" for most of us. I think this was directed more at the fanatical skeptics and fear mongers who were predicting gloom and doom of the grid and the ultimate failure of the electric car. And even if it did put any kind of strain on the grid, then that should be taken as a challenge to be solved with our aging infrastructure, not a reason to kill innovation.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 2 Days Ago
        @EZEE
        What if you live in a small town, and everyone wants to buy gasoline because of woodstock. Oh yeah! the gas station prepares in advance and have a bunch of tankers come by that day. The market will figure it out, as there is money to be made..
          Rotation
          • 2 Days Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Electricity doesn't work like that. You can't take capacity that would go to one place and reroute it to another for a day. If the lines aren't capacious enough, they aren't capacious enough.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Days Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Talk to the Gas Station owners of Gerlach Nevada. 50,000 burners!
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EZEE
        I think the root of the belief is that people think that cars will plug in a lot during the daytime. And sadly, EREVs do in my experience. EREV owners get a case of range extender anxiety want to plug in at work so they can drive home on electricity, and if they go to lunch in the car they want to plug in again after lunch. I don't know how that will be resolved, but I'm sure it will be managed. At least when this "day plugging" happens it is in commercial/industrial areas and those have more power available and are a bit easier to upgrade capacity on.
          Ele Truk
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Rotation
          Initial investment in small wind is considerably cheaper than solar. But small wind doesn't really scale in neighborhoods. Nobody would bat an eye at a 5KW solar array on your roof, but you'll get a lot of grief for putting up 5 1KW wind turbines.
          raktmn
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Rotation
          It is entirely solved by those big solar panels all over all those roofs, if you look closely in those pictures. Same with green-minded commercial/industrial sites that offer lots of plug-in stations for their employees. They likely also installed solar on their roof. The reality is that green minded EV owners are the same folks who install solar, put in LED light bulbs, buy energy star rated appliances, unplug vampire devices when not in use, etc. Many are by far net energy producers on hot sunny summer days when grid demands for A/C are the highest, actually IMPROVING overall grid efficiency, even if they also plug in for 20 or 30 miles worth of top-up charging in the middle of the day.
          EZEE
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Rotation
          @rak Thanks for pointing that out. Makes the article borderline funny, opposed to just odd. I have a survivalist friend who is going the route of wind opposed to solar. Odd choice as he is in Florida, but whatever works...
          Spec
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Rotation
          You friend is not making a good decision. Small wind is not very efficient (but it is great with the huge turbines). Much better to do solar with small installations. I guess he can add it later.
      Penn State EcoCAR 2
      • 1 Year Ago
      Going to have to give this a YEE-HAW as well! Its fascinating, and should be considered a milestone, that the average cost of electricity used by the vehicles per month was equivalent to a half a tank of gas. Statistics like these are most important to pass along to consumers because it really puts into perspective just how efficient these vehicles are. Totally worth it!
      MTN RANGER
      • 1 Year Ago
      If you have a Model S and drive the same miles as a Volt or Leaf, the difference in charging is pretty minor.
        karlInSanDiego
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MTN RANGER
        I disagree with this assertion. Tesla Model S hasn't been critisized for its efficiency relative to other BEVs, but its giant wheels/tires and excessive weight coupled with its powerful motor hasn't made it as efficient as the smaller/lighter ~80 mile range cars. I think the Model S is awesome, but it's the M5 of the BEV world, and that has cost it in efficiency.
          bluepongo1
          • 1 Year Ago
          @karlInSanDiego
          @Karlln SanDiego LOL !!! Do you compare Cadillac vehicles and Corvette vs. Chevette and Escort too ? ***** Tesla vehicles =/= ***compliance clown cars... Life isn't all 0's & 1's, some folks need a larger car because there is more than 4 people in their family. Some folks want a car that can be tuned/ up dated and won't end up used up and junked. Some folks want a better chance at walking away unharmed from an accident , unlike the import driver that hit a Model S last month. Half-hearted compliance retrofits inspire no one and Top Gear is full of bed wetters with range anxiety. Climate change isn't reversable because of second world industrialization and third world open fire cooking.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @karlInSanDiego
          The MPGe of the Model S is lower than other EVs . . . but not by that much. Look it up at fueleconomy.gov It is still extremely efficient just by being electric.
          karlInSanDiego
          • 1 Year Ago
          @karlInSanDiego
          This, of course in relation to the article's point about grid capacity and ultimately helping the environment with the switch from ICE to BEV. If you want to see the danger of not considering efficiency early in the adoption, witness Top Gear USAs recent episode on BEVs. The are Meh on 500e, Focus EV, and Leaf, but floored by Electric drag cars and the Model S. If that had been Top Gear UK, James May would have been the voice of reason, decrying that BEV without an eye on efficiency, will lead to greenwashing, not Climate Change reversal.
          Ricardo Gozinya
          • 1 Year Ago
          @karlInSanDiego
          Tesla's motor, as far as I know, is also less efficient. It's designed to rev higher than most electric motors, and electrics do extremely poorly at higher revs; Dropping from 90ish% down to around 60% when you really open it up. That's a far bigger drop than ICE engines. Part of the problem is the insistence on fixed gear transmissions. Whoever comes up with a good transmission for EVs is going to change the game for everyone.
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @karlInSanDiego
          Ricardo.... your attempt at logic is laughable. "Dropping from 90ish% down to around 60% when you really open it up" Even if this were true (which is not likely)....60% is still 3x more efficient than an ICE. So what? Who cares that the "drop" in efficiency is bigger. That is only because ICE efficiency is so damn close to the floor, it CANNOT DROP efficiency as fast. A second gear might increase efficiency and a higher top end speed.... but really, it is not worth the cost. Tesla tried that fiasco. A brief drop in efficiency when racing on the track is acceptable. Throughout the normal course of driving... I would bet most drivers never drop below 80% motor efficiency
          ElectricAvenue
          • 1 Year Ago
          @karlInSanDiego
          karlinSanDiego, I agree with most of what you say, but the powerful motor has almost zero to do with it. The weight of the motor is almost negligible (80 pounds, IIRC). Unlike internal combustion engines, it costs nearly nothing to spin an electric motor under a much lower load than it is capable of handling. The reason the Tesla is less efficient has everything to do with weight, and that is it. Performance is completely compatible with efficiency, except for the fact that currently that performance requires a huge battery pack. If there were smaller battery packs that could reliably provide the same maximum power without affecting the pack's life, then you could have a car that was more efficient but every bit as fast.
          raktmn
          • 1 Year Ago
          @karlInSanDiego
          The problem with adding transmissions is that they add more drivetrain losses. So even if you are slightly more gear efficient at constant cruise speeds, you have the drivetrain losses all off the time. Besides, the efficiency sweet spot for electric motors is much, much wider than for gas motors. So forget everything you know about gas motors. The only use there is for a transmission in an electric car is to increase 0-60 speeds while increasing the top speed at the same time. Both of which can also be improved by simply adding a more powerful motor and controller. Unlike a gas car, a more powerful motor and controller has almost zero impact on efficiency at a constant cruising speed. A multispeed transmission on the other hand, will have efficiency losses at all times (due to the rotating weight of the gears, the engagement system, and the drag of the transmission lubricating fluid on more items compared to a single speed transmission.)
        Naturenut99
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MTN RANGER
        MTN. Ranger is correct. The miles driven would in essense be the same. Therefore, the only difference would be a slight bit on efficiency. But not enough to make it a problem. The EPA EV ranges vs available to use kWh gives us... Volt 284 watts per mile Model S 289 watts per mile 40 miles x 5 wpm. = 200 additional watts (or .2 kWh ) for those same amount of miles. The EVSE charging rates would make more of a difference than that. Charging at 1.2, 3.3 or 6.6 kWh is what would make more of a difference. Because that is amount over an hour. Vs the additional energy would just add extra time. A whole 10 min on L1, and between 1 to 4 min on L2.
          MTN RANGER
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Naturenut99
          There is a conundrum with faster charging at home. The faster you charge the more efficient it is. Case in point, a Volt charging at 240V vs 120V will charge at a much faster rate and will more efficient due to less conversion losses. But a high amp, say 50kW 240V home charger may stress the local grid more than the 3.3kW 240V or slower 1.4kW 120V charging.
          Greg
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Naturenut99
          Watt = power; kWh = energy Power/mile makes no sense; it needs to be energy/mi.
      Grendal
      • 1 Year Ago
      Preaching to the choir here. This is an article that should be on the AB side too.
      andieashbaugh
      • 1 Year Ago
      It is awesome to see an extensive use of plug-in vehicles as well as their results depicting successful measures. People always condemn electric vehicles for their high prices, but a study like this proves their economic value and their efficiency. Hopefully after baring these results, america will be more willing to consider an electric vehicle when thinking about purchasing a vehicle. As a part of the Penn State Advanced Vehicle Team, one of our goals is to promote the consideration of electric vehicles, so studies and results like this are great to see.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Year Ago
      The invention of the internal combustion engine didn't kill the availability of petroleum..
      Dave D
      • 1 Year Ago
      You'll note below that they're talking to people like Rotation who just flat out enjoy worrying about stupid crap, THAT is why they have to bother with an article this silly. LOL
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      To be fair, they all also have solar panels too. This cuts down on the grid load when they charge during A/C on time (the day). But I do believe plug-ins and be integrated into the grid without too much trouble.
        EZEE
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rotation
        It's almost like they invented a problem to disprove it with research.
          Greg
          • 2 Days Ago
          @EZEE
          No, there are plenty of anti-EV folk out there who believe EVs will overtax and destroy the electric grid. It is a silly belief, but enough hold it that studies like this do have value.
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