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Mark Phelan: Can Michigan's electric grid handle future of electric vehicles? Yes -- to a point

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

DETROIT — Will there be enough electricity to power the coming flood of electric vehicles?

Yes, but the details matter.

First, don’t get snowed by automakers’ seemingly daily announcements of new EVs. The vast majority of vehicles built, sold and especially driven in the United States will continue to use internal combustion engines for years to come.

EVs are growing fast, though, and the technology improves every day. If you don’t see them on the road regularly now, odds are you will soon.

And they use a lot of electricity. The 88 kWh battery that can carry a rear-drive Ford Mustang Mach-E 300 miles could power a modest house for several days, depending on the time of year and other variables.

A single commercial DC fast-charger — the kind that uses 400-800 volts and can charge a vehicle in 20-40 minutes — can draw as much power as 50 homes, according to the Department of Energy.

 

That worries some people, and not without reason. They fear we’re trading a reasonably reliable supply of petroleum for uncertain availability and unknown cost with electricity.

Relax, the experts, say. The U.S. has more than enough electric generating capacity to power every EV expected to hit the road through 2028, according to a recent study by the Department of Energy.

“The (electric) grid is well equipped to supply EVs today and in the near term,” said Samantha Houston, vehicles analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s a nonissue.”

A 2020 report by the Department of Energy concludes, “through 2028, the overall power system, from generating through transmission, looks healthy up to about 24 million EVs.” That’s 16 times the roughly 1.5 million EVs operating in the U.S. today.

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