Charging Electric Cars: When and Why
|   Thursday, September 13, 2012
So, picture we have a lot of EVs and hybrids on the road, with drivers sharing much of their schedules. What happens when they get home and plug the car in to recharge the batteries at the same time? Mayhem and chaos and a lot of cursing, or nothing really?

For the moment, the latter option is definitely in the cards. However, utility companies and electric automakers will have to work together closely if they want to alter the charging habits of electric car drivers, which they have to do if they want to protect the grid.
Of course, that will only happen when cars that run on electricity have a much higher head count than now.
According to Scientific American, data collected over the last 2 months into an area widely known as the most concentrated zone of Chevrolet Volts, Pecan Street, Mueller, TX, indicates that most electric car owners plug in their cars right after they get home; they don't normally wait for night to come and plug in their cars when the grid demand is at its smallest. That results in spikes in power, spikes that usually happen when the clock indicates a period between 3 pm and 8 pm. That means that pressure is put on the grid and the utility company is working hard to provide the neighborhood with much needed electricity.

Now, theoretically, if 15 to 20 percent of the residents in a certain neighborhood are electric cars owners, that would put the utility companies in a tough position, it would not be an easy task to satisfy the request. That is every company's worst fear. Fortunately, that will not become a reality soon, as real life is still a long way to reach that many electric vehicles on the road, let alone on the chargers.

A simple solution does exist, and that is to recharge batteries at night when the pressure on the grid is at its lowest. According as a study performed by the Center for the Sustainable Energy in California (CSEC), almost two thirds of electric car owners agree with that idea, if they had the proper stimulants.

The normal stimulant would be to offer a better nighttime rate compared to daytime usage. However, in the US only about 6 percent of all utilities are offering time right now. Therefore, it will take a while before drivers and companies get used to this seat.

Another solution would be the smart grid. Thanks to one, utility companies can promptly inform automakers about how know much spare capacity there is in the electrical grid. General Motors proved with its OnStar system that it can be possible to have control over when and how the electrical cars owners charge. That is an elegant solution, one that could possibly prevent the grid's overloading.

On the bright side of things, there is still a lot of time for automakers and utility companies to develop a working system. It is expected that by 2015, 1 million electric vehicles will be on the road, and they all have to plug in at the same time to bring things down.
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