2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

With just about any new form of technology, there are usually early adopters, some of whom can be somewhat fanatic about the device in question, while others remain skeptical indefinitely, never giving it a chance. Not surprisingly, this creates debates about the long term benefits or consequences of unproven products. The hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles of today and tomorrow face plenty of critics, and probably always will. A major source of concern recently has been the ability of our country's established power grid to handle the anticipated load of EV battery chargers. Demand for these vehicles can only be estimated at this point, and the power delivery system hasn't been exposed to something of this magnitude before. Or has it? John Voelcker, of Green Car Reports sheds some light on the subject with some facts and practical comparisons to help clear things up.

To get right to the point, the answer is yes, the nation's power grid is capable of taking on the growing challenge of keeping modern EVs charged on a daily basis.  The proof? A joint study published by the Electric Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council suggests the additional charges might not be as demanding as it sounds.

To start, the rollout of EVs to consumers is expected to happen at a relatively slow rate. The first round of plug-ins, like the Volt and Leaf will be produced by the tens of thousands. Voelcker notes that this is a relatively small percentage of the roughly 300 million vehicles already being driven in the United States. Yes, as demand (presumably) increases in North America and worldwide, power delivery networks will need improvements, but they'll have time.

To illustrate the potential impact of the extra battery chargers on the network, the study compares them to a very common household device: the plasma TV. It only takes about 4 plasma screens (although I'm not sure what size) to draw the same amount of electricity needed to supply juice to a tired set of EV batteries. I don't know about you, but my wife and I are guilty of running a TV, dryer, dishwasher, large stereo system, and plenty of lights all at once without wondering if we'd cause a blackout in our neighborhood. Owners of plug-in electric vehicles can enjoy the same ignorant bliss for the duration of every nightly charge.

As I think about it, I wonder how many other plug in electric vehicles are out there already, being charged on a regular basis. My employer must have a dozen or so electric forklifts. Then there's our handy little wagon - "White Lightning" as it's affectionately called. Include the countless golf carts across the country and it's got to add up right?

Let's not forget the possibility of using alternative energy sources, like solar panels and wind turbines. I'm well aware that solar panel technology makes their size a limiting factor for many applications. I don't know anyone who would love to have a personal wind turbine in his or her back yard either. The point is, there are other options, and while EV volumes are still low, they may be able to make a difference.

[Green Car Reports]