After over a century of stall tactics put forth by the enormous power and influence of Big Oil, the technological and logistical hurdles of making electric cars have been cleared. The age of the electric car is finally here. EVs accounted for 10% of new car sales in 2022, and that share is only going to go up as time goes on.
The rise of the EV is a win for the planet, but it’s a looming headache for utility companies across the world. That’s because electric vehicle charging will soon overwhelm the power grid if action isn’t taken to address that growing demand.
The good news is that utility companies are already taking action to prepare for a future where EVs are the predominant form of automotive transportation. The following are six ways utility companies are preparing for increased EV charging demands:
EV owners can use a locator app for charging stations to find the nearest location, not unlike similar apps for gas stations. This gives EV owners the confidence they need to go farther, since they know they can recharge along the way. As EV owners start using their vehicles for long-distance trips, it won’t be long before the power grids of communities along freeways become overwhelmed by EV charging demands. The solution is to upgrade the existing infrastructure in order to accommodate increased demand. The same goes for cities and suburbs, as more people start charging their EVs at home. By building new substations and transformers and upgrading outdated cables and wires, power companies ensure the grid is ready to handle the surge in demand.
Believe it or not, some utility companies are getting out in front of the problem by proactively encouraging customers to install EV chargers in their homes. Reduced rates, rebates, and even the free installation of charging stations are all on the table. It sounds too good to be true, but power companies offer incentives to have more control over the distribution and management of EV charging solutions.
The demand for electricity ebbs and flows throughout the day and night. In order to prevent EV charging from overwhelming the power grid during peak hours, utility companies are exploring the idea of offering off-peak pricing options to their customers. It boils down to giving their customers a substantial discount if they charge their EVs during times of low demand.
Efficient and reliable power grid energy storage remains the holy grail of utility companies since it means storing electricity for when it’s needed most. While such technology remains elusive, growing demand for EV charging has prompted power companies to invest in research and development. If such technology could ever be developed, it would be a game changer for the global power grid as well as the planet itself since it would mean less wasted energy output and greater efficiency.
The concept of smart charging is pretty straightforward; at-home EV charging stations throttle themselves in accordance with real-time demands on the power grid. If demand is high, the charging process slows down, and when demand is low, it goes up. While not practical for those who need fast charging, it’s a suitable solution for situations where there’s no rush to complete the charge.
The more alternative energy solutions are in use, the less demand there is on the power grid. From solar panels at home to wind farms on the plains to geothermal energy from deep within the earth, all options should be explored for utility companies to prepare for increased demand. The upfront cost will be nothing short of expensive, but the long-term benefits will be worth every penny.
Once a novelty with no shortage of limitations, electric vehicles are set to become the standard form of automotive transportation for the foreseeable future. But in order for that to happen, utility companies must adapt and overcome the many obstacles in regards to the existing power grid. Long overdue, these investments will go far in terms of bringing electrical infrastructure into the 21st century. It’s only a matter of time before they become common components of power grids across the planet, which means EV ownership will become practical for hundreds of millions of people.
Alex Farina is a freelance writer from Ohio. He enjoys writing about design, fashion, nature, and technology.