Is the Texas power grid ready for the electric car boom?

When a winter storm crossed Lone Star and the alley in mid-February, electricity went out in Texas — as well as heat, grocery refrigerators, and gas station pumps.

Hundreds of people have died as a result of infrastructure failures, and the legislature has spent months discussing the best ways to improve Texas’ independent power grid.

As the United States seeks to reach its goal of adopting electric vehicles, the Texans will need to buy millions of battery-powered vehicles and trucks over the next eight years. Experts hope that federal funding for EV charging stations, which will be developed in the coming years, will trigger the switch.

But what if most or half of Texas residents have their cars connected to the grid for charging? It’s a few years away, but it’s a problem that environmentalists and renewable energy experts are already worried about.

Even the leadership of Toyota North America, based in Plano, has challenged the Biden administration’s goals and argued that infrastructure needs to be upgraded to handle more electric vehicles.

In 2018, researchers at the University of Texas published a study examining the amount of electricity needed if all states were to completely shift to the use of electric vehicles. If all Texas passenger cars are electric vehicles, the state will need to produce 30% more electricity annually than it does today. Studies show that this is enough electricity to power 11 million households each year.

“Some challenges are where to put these. [charging] station? Where do you check to prevent the station from overloading the grid? “Lori Clark, DFW Clean City Coordinator of the North Central Texas Government Council, said. “If you put a lot of DC quick chargers servicing 10 cars at a time in a small gas station in the countryside of Texas, that’s a little tricky.”

According to the US Department of Energy, the expected 80% of all vehicle charges occur at home. According to Pew’s 2020 survey, the time when owners choose to charge these vehicles has the greatest impact on the grid.

Clark said he believes more education is needed for the best charging time. She likens to not running large appliances and air conditioners during peak summer energy usage.

“Think of the electric car as another big home appliance. Don’t plug it in or start charging from 3pm to 7pm,” Clark says.

Many EVs have a built-in feature that allows the user to delay the charging of the vehicle until the scheduled time. Overall, Clark said utilities weren’t concerned about the grid’s ability to handle passenger cars.

According to Tom “Smitty” Smith, Executive Director of the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance, grid reliability can be an issue.

“Otherwise, we’re thinking about how to see an electric car as an asset,” Smith said.

Electric vehicles are basically batteries with wheels because they don’t require as many moving parts as a combustion engine. Smith also envisions a system that can handle peak usage times by returning the power stored in the EV to the grid through a network of EV batteries connected to a home connection.

“Generally speaking, it is estimated that by using the power grid more efficiently, we can see net benefits for all toll payers in the state,” Smith said.

The system operator works at the Texas Electrical Reliability Council command center in Taylor. Approximately 90% of Texas’ electrical load is managed by ERCOT.

Is the Texas power grid ready for the electric car boom?

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