CERAWeek: Can utilities handle electric cars?

If electric cars take hold among American drivers, electricity infrastructure will need to adjust to handle the extra load.
Andrew Tang, senior director of Pacific Gas & Electric’s Smart Energy Web, said utilities can craft programs to urge consumers to plug in their electric cars and hybrids during off-peak hours or the grid will need a slew of new plants to meet peak use demand.
He said some claim that nearly three-fourths of the current fleet could be replaced with electric cars, and no new power plants would be needed. But that scenario assumes perfect timing when it comes to plugging them in, with no overlap of peak use, particularly when consumers hike up the air conditioning on hot days.
“That won’t happen,” he said. Instead, motorists would get home from work and plug in the cars rather than tiptoe out to the garage in their jammies at midnight.
Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan North America, which will roll out an all-electric car next year, said such cars could plug into meters with timers set to start the recharging during off-peak hours. That would give technological advances to smooth out power use time to catch up.
“I’m trying to be the solution, not the problem,” he said.

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