Increasing rumblings across social media suggest California has so many electric vehicles that last week's extreme heat drove the state's power grid to the brink. And so, these arguments contend, it is ludicrous to mandate additional EVs because the grid obviously can't handle it.
This commentary is just plain wrong and is being lazily offered up by some of the same voices that have shared other debunked EV myths. Batteries did not die in the 2021 snow-induced traffic shutdown in Virginia and it did not cost 10 times more to charge when cold weather caused the grid to fail in Texas. The upfront environmental impact of producing an EV does not outweigh the benefits of operating it over time.
So, is EV charging really pushing the California power grid to the brink?
No. It has nothing to do with EV charging.
The state is experiencing extreme heat, and for a few hours in the late afternoon, the electricity demand for cooling and cooking exceeds solar production. Between 4 and 8 p.m., California's grid operator is asking customers to turn down air conditioning and avoid EV charging.
Why? At 4 p.m., solar production drops off quickly as the sun starts to set. It's still extremely hot, so people need air conditioning. As they get home and start cooking dinner, there's additional energy demand that can't easily be shifted. But it's incredibly easy to shift most vehicle charging to any of the other 20 hours of the day.
Today there are 1 million EVs in California. Let's say every single one is plugged into a Level 2 charger at the same time in the middle of the day. This is literally impossible — as there are only around 71,200 Level 2 chargers in California, but let's pretend. On average, a Level 2 charger draws 10 kilowatts of power at a time. That multiplies out to a 10,000-megawatt demand, substantially less than the 13,000 megawatts of solar power the state generates on sunny days. So in the middle of the day, it's fine — it's only 4 to 8 p.m. when there's an issue, and only in a historic heat wave.
For more evidence EVs aren't the problem, consider this: Over the past four years, the number of EVs registered in California has doubled. But peak demand on the grid has only increased 5 percent, including all other energy usage. Over the same time, peak solar production has increased from 10,000 megawatts to 13,000 megawatts, a gain of 30 percent.
In a recently published analysis by Physics Today, at full penetration, EVs will only increase grid demand by 25 percent. So while this won't be the last time you see misinformation about EVs, it's still a shame the social media ecosystem is out there amplifying it.