IEEE analysis: Electric cars won’t overtax the grid

electric-gridOne of the most persistent EV myths is that electric cars will bring down the electric grid. Research shows this isn’t true. But the myth won’t go away.

Just because the myth won’t die doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it to keep combatting it. So, here goes: Another analysis, this one by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), shows, once again, that EVs won’t overtax the grid — at least not a smart one.

Indeed, as a recent article in Medill Reports Chicago, an online publication produced by graduate students at the prestigious Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism notes, the current U.S. electric grid could support a massive switch where half of the vehicles on the road would run on battery power.

That’s right, half of the U.S. automotive fleet could go electric and the electric grid would keep on chugging along.

However, there is a caveat — the American electric grid needs to go smart in order to support tens of millions of EVs. Among other things, this means staggered charging for EVs and an electric grid that can calibrate the amount of juice flowing into electric car batteries to suit variable local and regional electric draw.

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“The only way to do it is by using this smart charging approach where you are really controlling the rate of charging of the batteries,” JoÃo Lopes, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, tells Medill Reports.

If all drivers came home from work and plugged in at once – what Lopes calls a “dumb” charging system – the current grid would only be able to support an auto fleet made up of about 10 percent electric vehicles, according to Medill Reports.

Another benefit of a smart charging system would be that it allows for easy integration of renewable energy sources, notes the same Medill Reports story. Since renewable sources such as wind and solar energy can be highly variable, a smart system would allow for electric vehicle owners to use more power when renewables are high – during the day, or when winds pick up. Lopes even suggested alerting drivers when excess energy is available.

To read the full Medill Reports article on EVs and the electric grid, go to

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