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As EVs Become More Common, Nighttime Electricity Will Get More Expensive

A driver charges his electric vehicle at a charging station as the California Independent System Operator announced a statewide Electricity Flex Alert urging to prevent power outages in Monterey Park, California, on Aug. 31, 2022.  Californians were told to use their electric vehicles during peak hours on August 31, 2022, just days after the state announced it would stop selling gas-powered cars as the aging electrical grid grapples with a terrifying heat wave.  Temperatures of up to 44 degrees Celsius were forecast in some Los Angeles suburbs, as a massive heat dome bakes a swath of the western United States.

A driver charges his electric vehicle at a charging station as the California Independent System Operator announced a statewide Electricity Flex Alert urging to prevent power outages in Monterey Park, California, on Aug. 31, 2022. Californians were told to use their electric vehicles during peak hours on August 31, 2022, just days after the state announced it would stop selling gas-powered cars as the aging electrical grid grapples with a terrifying heat wave. Temperatures of up to 44 degrees Celsius were forecast in some Los Angeles suburbs, as a massive heat dome bakes a swath of the western United States.
Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP (Getty Images)

The shift of internal combustion vehicles to electric is already changing the way we live and drive, and early adopters of the technology are not exempt. A new study confirms mass adoption of EVs will turn the current conventional wisdom of cheap overnight charging on its head.

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A new study published in Nature Energy Thursday from Stanford University studied how owning electric cars would affect electricity demand in western states that already suffer from power outages on hot days. The research team found what logic could have told you: If everyone has an EV and everyone charges it overnight, overnight charging will undoubtedly become more expensive. Of the roadside:

The study, conducted by a team from Stanford University and published in Nature Energy, found that increasing EV ownership in the western US could lead to a spike in net electricity demand of up to 25 percent by 2035. the year California said it would ban the sale of gas-powered cars and trucks.

That demand could rise to as much as 50 percent in a “stress test” scenario where every vehicle on the road is a plug-in model, the team concludes. More demand translates into higher prices, meaning the glory days of cheap overnight charging may be coming to an end.

To tackle the problem, we need more people who charge their cars during the day, for example at work or in the city. That also means a heavy investment in public EV chargers, which federal authorities are finally going to provide. Last month, the Biden administration dedicated $5 billion to build a public charging network of more than 500,000 fast chargers.

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This year, California became the first state to declare it would ban the sale of gas cars by 2035. Currently, the state has by far the most EVs registered than any other state — about six percent of the fleet. But California also had power outages earlier this month due to high demand caused by sky-high temperatures, CNBC reports. Finding the right mix of people charging will be key to sustaining the state as extreme temperatures become as common as EVs.

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