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Sunday, April 2, 2023
THE WEEK IN ENERGY: CALIFORNIA FOLLIES, CHAPTER 12,186
As everyone knows, California is leading the bandwagon to have an all-electric car and truck fleet as soon as 2035. The assumption is that people will charge up their batteries overnight when electricity demand drops. The defect in this plan is that while electricity demand starts to fall later in the evening (except during heat waves), California’s supply of electricity also falls because it is lopsided toward wind and especially solar power, the latter of which generates no electricity at night.
A new study just published in Applied Energy by three engineers at Stanford casts serious doubt about the feasibility of charging California’s electric car fleet overnight:
A new study from Stanford University has found that the vast majority of electric vehicle (EV) owners are charging their cars at home in the evening or overnight, and this could be costing the electricity grid a significant amount. . . If rapid EV growth continued with a continued dominance of residential, nighttime charging, peak electricity demand could increase by up to 25% in just over a decade.
One solution would be for people to charge their cars during the day when solar electricity in California is often in surplus at noon, but is this feasible for most motorists(never mind the necessary supply of charging stations for this)?
The usual backstop for the intermittency of renewable energy sources is batteries. The study estimated that “once 50% of cars on the road in the Western US are powered by electricity, more than 5.4 gigawatts of energy storage would be needed if charging habits follow their current course. That’s the capacity equivalent of five large nuclear power reactors.” More likely, the study continues, western states will have to build a lot of natural gas backup plants to run at night.
Leave aside for now the enormous materials requirements for a huge-scale up of battery storage, and let this sink in: if California is to make its greenhouse gas targets, we’ll be charging up our battery-powered cars with electricity from . . . still more batteries.