Can EV Charging Crash The Grid? Toronto Hydro Chief Says Yes

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Power lines by Flickr user achouro

Power lines by Flickr user achouro

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Picture the scene: You arrive home after a long day at work. The lights are on, the dinner is waiting for you in the oven and the kids are watching TV.

Before leaving the garage, you plug in your 2011 Nissan Leaf and switch the charger on. And the whole neighborhood goes dark. Your EV was the straw that broke the camel's back, the grid already maxed out. An unlikely scenario?

Not if the concerns of Toronto Hydro energy chief Anthony Haines are to be believed. Speaking to an audience at Ryerson University, Toronto, Anthony said that just 10 percent of homes on any street charging their EVs would be enough to crash the system.

According to Toronto Hydro, recharging an electric car's battery consumes around triple the amount of power typically used in the average home, and as many people will plug in when they get in from work, the extra load would come at the peak time.

So, should we be worried? It's hard to tell at this stage. Representatives from power companies in Detroit and Los Angeles have already dismissed any chance of EVs bringing down the grid.

Research by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) back in 2007 reckoned that if even a third of all miles in the U.S. were powered by the grid, electricity demand would increase by less than 10 percent. Recharging an EV is said to draw about the same current as running four plasma screen televisions.

Conflicting information then, but grid load does of course depend on where you live and the capacity of the nearest power stations. Although Detroit and L.A. weren't worried, San Francisco were apprehensive about "clusters" of EVs in certain streets, where high loads would be concentrated rather than spread across a city.

Anthony Haines thinks that "innovative solutions" are needed to handle the load, and off-peak charging wherever possible will help too - setting a timer to begin charging later on, for example. He also thinks that renewable energy is underused in cities at the moment, but even if it were used more widely, the current system isn't wired to handle it.

Of course, we've seen energy companies pushing for more power before, but it seems the debate will continue as to whether our grid is able to handle the influx of EVs to the market over the coming years.


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Comments (7)
  1. This is stupid.... If it does matter, the VOLT can be set to delay charge later in the evening. Besides isn't Toronto in another country?

  2. This is a bunch of baloney! There is enough off-peak energy being wasted at night in downtown Toronto to run just the lights. Also, if an energy storage plant was created to store the off-peak energy at night and charge the cars during the day there is enough juice for everybody. The problem that Haines is referring to is the load on the Toronto electric grid during peak hours (or day time). Maybe the city needs an electric car grid with energy storage plants that store off peak energy to be developed specifically for this purpose! God knows there are enough electrical engineers working as taxi drivers and gas pump operators.

  3. 2 silly comments!
    1) People will expect to be able to charge their EV when they want - not on some schedule
    2) Post 2 talks about storage - nice but it does not happen to exist.
    3) NRDC saying don't worry is about like Alfred E Neuman's 'What? Me worry?
    The entire thing is a problem to be worked on and worked out. No big deal but not automatic.
    The Smart Grid will need to incorporate TOU rates to encourage people to charge the EV when capacity is available.

  4. And adding a new pool, spa, or central air conditioning unit can also do the same thing but we don't seem to be to concerned about these things. How about we outlaw these luxury uses of electricity so we can use it for important things like reducing our need for wars or pollution.
    As Ingram pointed out, EVs would only be the straw that broke the camel's back. The circuits would already be at their capacity limits by all of these other electricity consumers.
    Besides, most EV owners prefer to charge at night anyway, when it is cooler and the grid load is light anyway. One has to actually care in order to go through all the hoops to get an electric vehicle. The grid will have time to adjust by the time the average joe-6-pack gets an EV.
    All that really needs to happen is to upgrade a few transformers if they are at capacity - not a big deal.

  5. solar roadways - click on my name for the youtube video, part1 and then part2

  6. Crashing the grid not likely. I thought that way myself, but now with the knowledge I have. There could be many many electric cars having very little impact on the grid. There's even the possibility of driving an electric car for free for years. The potential and possibilities the electric car will bring to the future are very prosperous. Technology exist for a bright future with electric vehicles. How soon can it become reality?

  7. I can't imagine that the grid is going to crash because of an increase of electric cars. Have you seen Kia's new electric concept car? Pop - it was unveiled in Paris this week. Interesting new look.

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