California has lofty goals for electric vehicles by 2035 while struggling to keep its electric grid operating smoothly during heat waves. Today we look at some projections for electric vehicles and how they could impact electricity demand.
According to electric vehicle infrastructure company Future Energy, the average EV charging station installation cost for a Level 2 station is around $6,000 per port. However several factors affect commercial EV charging station costs: infrastructure, equipment, soft costs, subsidies and software.
Conservative estimate: The state needs to increase stations by 86,000 per year.
45% of the stations are public (38,700) with an estimated average cost of $6,000 to put in place.
That would amount to about $232 million annually, or $3 billion by 2035.
Level 1 chargers use alternating current electricity at 120 volts to provide about 5 miles or less of range per hour of charging.
Level 2 chargers use alternating current electricity to charge a plug-in electric vehicle at 208 to 240 volts and can provide about 14 to 35 miles of range per hour of charging.
DC Fast chargers use direct current electricity at 480 volts to recharge an all-battery electric vehicle to 80% capacity in about 30 minutes, though the time required depends on the size of the vehicle battery and the power level of the charger.
The California Energy Commission has a dashboard with electric vehicle chargers and new EV sales here.
Demand for electricity
Earlier this month during a heat wave, the state issued a Flex Alert on Sept. 5 and many skeptics raised concern regarding the state’s ability to provide enough electricity. According to the most recent forecast by the California Energy Commission in 2021, electric vehicles would draw a maximum of 4% of California’s electricity supply even during peak demand. But they did not say what the source of electricity would be.
The 4% electricity-use scenario presumes an aggressive EV adoption rate of 5.4 million light-duty electric vehicles and 193,000 medium- and heavy-duty electrics on the road in 2030. To date, 1.2 million electric vehicles have been sold in California.
The best time to charge EVs is overnight, after the Flex Alert, according to a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokesperson speaking to Spectrum News 1 in Los Angeles. LADWP has adequate energy supply to meet EV charging demand even during a Flex Alert’s peak hours, the rep said, but charging at non-peak times helps to lessen stress on the electricity distribution grid.
The California Energy Commission assessment also found that in 2030, electricity consumption from EV charging could reach about 5,500 megawatts around midnight and 4,600 MW around 10 a.m. on a typical weekday, increasing electricity demand by up to 20–25% at those times.
The main source of electricity during those hours is natural gas.
California’s power supply trend
From Sept. 13
Note: On the evening of the Flex Alert (Sept. 5) supply of natural gas surged to more than 26,000 megawatts around 10 p.m.
From Sept. 5
You can see California’s daily energy supply, demand and emissions at California ISO.
Electric car energy
According to Energy Sage, a solar installation company, on average, Americans drive about 14,000 miles per year, and based on data from fueleconomy.gov, EVs consume an average of 0.35 kilowatt-hours per mile driven.
That amounts to a Level 2 home EV charger needing about 13.4 kWh of electricity daily.
California already has about 1 million EVs on the road. To double that would be an increase of about 13,400 megawatts per day or 558.3 megawatts per hour. That does not appear to be a major burden on the grid even during heat waves. But to add 2 million EVs per year as the 2035 goals intend might require substantial resource expansion of the power supply.
Solar panel proportions
The following calculations are estimates of charging cars with renewable energy. On average it takes 7-9 solar panels to charge an electric car driven daily. Conservatively an array (7 panels) would be about 122.8 square feet per car. Therefore the 2035 goal that approximately 2 million new EVs be sold a year would require approximately 5,638 acres of new solar panels annually. That’s a space more than 10 times the size of Disneyland in Anaheim (or about 8.8 square miles) per year.
Three of the nation’s top five biggest solar farms are in California, and each are 3,200 acres or more.
The battery situation
In February, Redwood Materials of Carson City, Nevada, announced in a press release that it will be collecting and recycling hybrid and EV battery packs into new battery materials for California. It says it will accept all lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride batteries in the state. Previously, tapped-out EV batteries were shipped overseas.
Redwood Materials currently recycles more than 6 gigawatt hours of batteries each year, enough for 60,000 EVs. The company hopes to be able to reach production of 1 million EVs by 2025.
Battery recycling will play an equally important role in shaping the future of EVs, helping to cut down on e-waste and the need for harmful mining practices for lithium and other minerals.
Sources: California Energy Commission, Redwood Materials, California Independent System Operator, Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom, energysage.com, insideevs.com, Spectrum News 1, California EPA