California is going all-in on EVs within the next decade. In light of its recent power grid woes, the state’s EV schedule seems rushed. Heat waves are straining the power grid in the Golden State, raising the question of how it plans to power EVs when there’s little power to begin with.
But these same power-hungry cars could become unlikely allies as California — and the rest of the country — struggles to keep the lights on, according to Wired.
Wired’s article explains much about vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology and how California hopes to leverage bidirectional charging to boost its grid. The idea behind V2G isn’t really new: just as electricity can be siphoned from the grid and stored in an EV battery, electricity can also be fed back in to help stabilize it.
Similar programs are already up and running throughout Europe and Japan, but V2G is often seen as limited in applicability. We’ve seen it used in small, idyllic municipalities, as if the tech couldn’t scale. I guess it’s hard to imagine any single EV doing much to bolster a strained power grid in the U.S., but millions of EVs all at once could make a big difference.
Now that new gas-burning cars are being phased out in California by 2035, the National Resources Defense Council says the state could have 14 million EVs in use by then. And if utility companies were to tap into those EV batteries, they could power every home in the state for three whole days. That’s worth doing.
The hardest part of making V2G common will be standardization: there’s just a lot of variables between different utilities, charging companies and EV makers. One executive compared it to California’s solar industry, which introduced bidirectional power and was sort of messy to implement at first, but is now commonplace.
The other hard part will be convincing EV owners to give back the power stored in their car batteries. Utilities say it’s not as hard as it sounds; people just need a little nudge. That can be in the form of cheaper electricity rates, or payment for power sent back. Customers could even choose to power their own homes first, to weather outages seamlessly. It’s pretty much win-win, and much more viable than people think, even in U.S. states like California or Texas. I never would’ve pegged either as a “solarpunk” setting, but we’re getting there.
You can read more about how EVs could end up saving the U.S. power grid instead of collapsing it by clicking here.