Photo: Tewy via Wikimedia Commons
California has pioneered much of the clean-air legislation in the country, and it’s leading the push for zero-emission electric and plug-in vehicles.But the state has also highlighted a commonly overlooked concern that shifting to all-electric or plug-in hybrid cars might present.
If enough residents in a given neighbourhood convert to plug-in vehicles, it could place added strain on the local power grid — specifically on local transformers. If the equipment isn’t upgraded as more plug-ins arrive, overload on the transformers could eventually lead to localised power outages.
On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission instructed local utility companies to collaborate with electric automakers to come up with ways to prevent localised blackouts. The neighborhoods most likely to convert to electric or plug-in hybrid cars are informally called “Prius clusters.”
The coordination between utility companies and automakers has already begun, as both General Motors and Nissan have agreed to give California utility companies the addresses of Volt and Leaf buyers – with the buyer’s permission, of course.
A small group of people may see this as an invasion of privacy and decline to permit the information to be passed along. Most, however, are likely to see it as something that will benefit them and their neighbours.
This coordination and the eventual upgrades needed to handle the extra electricity will not come free. Though the costs of the needed upgrades are not yet known, the commission did decide that the utility’s customer base will pay for all of the upgrades. The commission should have a more exact idea of the cost and funding outline in mid-2013.
An influx of plug-in vehicles will not only impact local grids, but the state’s power grid as a whole may experience issues if the rate of conversion to plug-in vehicles expands more rapidly than research shows.
Dan Bowermaster, head of electric vehicle planning for Pacific Gas and Electric Co, appears confident in the state’s electrical grid, stating “The grid can handle it” and “It’s just about proper planning.” Only time will tell for certain, but it appears that California is prepared for the slow shift toward electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
This story originally appeared at Green Car Reports
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