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Electric Vehicles and Smart Meters Could Save the Power Grid

Electric Vehicle Plugging In
Electric Vehicle Plugging In

In most parts of the country, the power grid is woefully out of date, which makes many people wonder if more electric vehicles will simply put more strain on an already strained system.

In many places, the power grid is decades old. While average consumption isn’t typically a problem for the grid, peak power demands can push it to the breaking point. Some believe that adding electric vehicles to the mix will only push it over the edge, especially peak power demand. For example, if most people get home about an hour after the workday ends, the home’s power demands spike immediately. Enter the house, turn on the lights, start the heater / air conditioning (if you don’t have a programmable thermostat, shame on you), turn on the television, cook dinner, and take a shower.

People who drive conventional vehicles don’t “refuel” at home, but at the gas station, but electric vehicle owners would most likely plug in their cars when they get home. Plugging in when you pull into the garage would only add to the power demand spike. United States President Barack Obama made the claim that the Nation would be the first in the world to have one millionelectric vehicles on the road by 2015. Granted, electric vehicles haven’t proven to be as popular as Obama has hoped for, even with incentives and great fuel economy and emissions, but could one million electric vehicles push peak power demands beyond the capabilities of an aging power grid?

If so, then smart meters and electric vehicles could be exactly what is needed to prevent disaster, blackouts, overloads, voltage instability, among other things. It could also save money, since utility companies need to spend plenty of it to keep the power grid maintained, as well as make upgrades. University of Vermont researchers developed a new solution, which distributes power according to demand, but in “packets” of five or ten minutes of high-amperage charge time. If five electric vehicles plugged in at the same time on the same power grid substation, that could cause a problem. However, if those same five vehicles recharged in turns, “packet charging,” they’d all be recharged by morning, without overloading the power grid.

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