California's aging power infrastructure not suited to all these new EV cars

Originally published at: California's aging power infrastructure not suited to all these new EV cars | Boing Boing


Upgrading the grid, if they indeed do that, will create a lot of job.

Go, go, government investment!


I think most of CA’s power generation and transport infrastructure is from the 1950s. It is going to be a huge project and take a long time.


huge projects that take a long time (legitimately) are even better. More jobs, lasting longer, and we all know we need the infrastructure modernization.

I’d love to get a battery for my house, but they’re just too expensive at this point.


Yes it sucks here, please stop coming to California.


From what I have gathered, PG&E have completely mismanaged their business. They barely practice enough upkeep to keep the grid working. There are like 50+ year old wire clamps that are wearing through and breaking, causing forest fires.

Isn’t it time to take over the company and make it a publicly owned utility? Then invest in the infrastructure?

IMO most if not all of the power companies should be publicly owned. I don’t see the point in a for profit power company. We need power like we need water to function in a modern society. The theory that private ownership will be cheaper doesn’t pan out, because they have monopolies for the areas they serve. You don’t have a 2nd option for power.


Have you seen the amazing Works Progress era dams and infrastructure they built to maintain the dams, house the staff etc? There is some AMAZING stuff up in the Shasta/Redding area. I used to go fly fishing at a lodge that was located in the former staff quarters somewhere along the Fall river I think, maybe the Pitt. Absolutely beautiful and amazing.


Every building needs to capture and store power so that the grid is used less.


After for-profit health care and for-profit prisons, for-profit utilities are probably the next abomination.


I haven’t been to CA yet, but I did go to the Hoover Dam. And WOW. What an impressive feat of engineering.


Not a fix for the infrastructure - but I bet they could set up an incentives program with smart charging ports in homes. Get a guarantee that your car will get a full charge overnight, but the system staggers them - so everybody doesn’t get home at 7 and plug in at the same time.


There really is no excuse for this. the power demand curve has been rising for decades and industry working groups and press have been pointing towards EV’s becoming a thing for at least 20 years. yet utilities have had their head in the sand and mad no significant upgrades to transmission infrastructure.

PG&E has been managed criminally for most of It’s life (@TubeTimeUS has a great breakdown of the criminal behaviour around the Camp Fire) and their big san bruno gas leak was basically the same story.


Also does every charge have to be fast or super fast? I know people with EVs and a lot just use the standard 110V to slow charge overnight, ~5 miles of range per hour covers the typical day in about 12 hours.

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I’m gonna call BS on this one. The not burned fossil fuels are nowhere to be found in that sentence.

And who, exactly, is ICF?

Um, yeah, but…

TID (my CA electric company, which actually runs a surplus and sends it off to PG&E) has a steep summer discount on electric used after about 11PM through to some early morning hour. Or maybe the right way to look at it is in the summer it charges extra from something like 6am or 8am through to 11PM since the summer off peak price is the same as the winter 24hour price.

I was going to complain about the “like running 2 AC units” since my car definitely takes less power then my AC (240V, 32A at best for the EV). Then I realized “oh, they are thinking about a household with two cars…both EVs!”. Which you can set up to charge one car then the other with some very affordable equipment, in some cases cheaper then wiring two dumber “chargers”. Which doesn’t change the total power used, but it does flatten the peak, and the peak is what really matters to utility companies, to consumers “ready when I need it (normally morning)” is all they really (should?) care about.

Looking at the demand and supply power cubes in socal (I couldn’t find them for up here) there is a ton of excess capacity at night. Definitely enough for everyone to add one EV, but not so much two unless they can charge one at a time.

However throwing a wrench in the works is things like the F150EV that uses way more power per mile then current EVs. At 32A 240V I get back around 25 miles of range per hour charged. The F150EV recovers half that (which is one of the reasons it has an optional 70A charger). So if I really run out my full 250 mile range and limp into the garage at basically 0% I can’t quite recharge all on off peak power (my car is set to use off-peak power as much as it can, but prioritize being ready at 6am). With the same sized charger the F150EV wouldn’t be able to do it. So I can absolutely see F150EV owners going for the much larger charger and putting a bigger demand on the grid (likely still off peak though).

I wonder if the power companies will eventually go for not just peak/off-peak rates, but discounting for low maximum usage in a given hour. I mean currently one would have no incentive to “half rate charge” something like a F150EV so if like a typical American the daily commute is really only about 30 miles/day as soon as off-peak charging kicks in it’ll pull 70A for a bit over and hour and then stop. That’’’ cost the utility much more then if it pulled 32A for two and a half hours. People with 2 “regular” EVs at least have a modest incentive to charge the two cars in turn (only needing to run one circuit to the garage, although depending on things it might be cheaper to run two circuits then to get a fancy EVSE).


I’ve seen some of them, and your descriptionis spot on.This is exactly the kind of photogenic and durable infrastructure we should be featuring when discussing the Green New Deal. All that PG&E evokes is greed and incompetence.


Gee, do you think there might be a method to charge cars at a time other than dinnertime? A clock-driven switch, perhaps?
But seriously, the ideal solution is for the places that all these people drive to every day to install solar panel shade structures and charge the cars with those. Oh, wait, cars that travel 50 miles each way use about 10x as much electricity as one can recover from the roof of a parking spot in a typical day.
How about we all just keep working from home?


That, and the public not wanting really good, useful sources of energy (‘nuclear’) or any other major form of bulk power generation in their back yard, combined with the lack of upkeep… the entire US grid is in trouble. Texas is a stellar example of what happens when the grid fails. Scale that up to nationwide and it’s a disaster.


One of the complicating factors is that the traditional funding sources for both our roads and power grids are outdated if we want to transition to EVs and solar power.

For most of California’s modern history the bulk of road infrastructure funding has come from taxes on gasoline and diesel, while the bulk of electrical grid infrastructure funding has come from charging a percentage on how much people pay for their electricity. This all breaks down when people switch to electric vehicles and install home solar system that dramatically reduce their electric bill while still leaving them at least partially dependent on a functional power grid.


Yes, EV will add almost 8kW to demand, compared to 2.5kW for an efficient 3 ton AC. However, if the house also has solar, it will generally knock 2 - 5kW off of that demand, making it break even. California has a lot of solar PV. Utilities could actually end up downsizing their transformers in a scenario where EV is prevalent, as it tends to trend with PV. That covers the home charging market.

For the commercial fast chargers, they are already sized with their own transformers - so no issues there. If the transmission and distribution didn’t support the three phase 480V service of the supermarket where they often are, they wouldn’t have put in a super market. Adding a bunch of cars charging doesn’t add much, as the chargers have their own transformers.

Finally, all of the equipment that the services were designed for are becoming more efficient. Lighting, which used to account for 40% of demand, now is half or less with LED lighting. So the grid will probably handle things just fine.