Here’s a wild stat: Barclays estimates converting the entire U.S. light-duty fleet — cars, SUVs, pickups and vans — to electric vehicles would boost power demand by 30%, Ben writes.

Why it matters: EVs are a small share U.S. sales for now, so even if that’s accurate, gaming out a 100% transition is more of a thought exercise.

  • But it gets to a very real challenge: adding passenger EVs — and ultimately heavy-duty vehicles — to aging grids already facing multiple hurdles.

Threat level: “EVs are set to become a rather large, unique, and potentially disruptive load,” Barclays finds.

  • Unmanaged charging will mean “sharper, higher, and more frequent power demand peaks,” higher costs and more emissions, the bank added.

Zoom out: Recent years brought examples of grid vulnerabilities, and outages with existing demand.

  • They range from wildfires in California, to the 2021 Texas freeze, to attacks on substations in several states (which exposed how easy it could be for bad actors to cripple the U.S.’s power infrastructure on a wider scale).
  • Now, EVs are rising as power managers are tackling renewables integration, climate change, infrastructure attacks and the push to electrify appliances that now burn fossil fuels.

State of play: EV backers say it’s possible to simultaneously make grids cleaner, more reliable and decarbonize transport and homes.

  • “The potential for transportation electrification and the growth of EVs to impact the grid is real, and so we need to be very smart today about how we’re planning for EV deployment,” said Sara Baldwin of the firm Energy Innovation.
  • Fully electric vehicles had grown to 8% of U.S. sales last December, per the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry group. The White House wants zero-emission vehicles to be 50% of sales by 2030.

Yes, but: EVs are not a big enough source yet to affect reliability, said Emily Sanford Fisher of the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities.

  • Fisher, Barclays and others cite ways to manage the growing demands.
  • One is “time of use” pricing programs in California and elsewhere that create incentives for plugging in outside of demand peaks. “A lot of states are contemplating those kinds of price signals to help people charge at the most optimum time,” she said.
  • Another is “bidirectional” tech that allows EVs to strengthen grids — and even power drivers’ homes during outages — with energy stored in batteries. EVs, including the Ford F-150, are beginning to have these features.

The intrigue: Fisher’s watching electrification of corporate and government fleets, which can bring localized need for new or upgraded equipment like distribution transformers and substations.

What we’re watching: Integrating EVs is getting lots of attention from policymakers and utilities — EEI even has a CEO-level task force.

  • The 2021 infrastructure law has billions for charging, but also managing impacts.
  • One example: the $3 billion for an existing smart grid grant program broadens eligible areas to include EV integration.

The bottom line: “When I talk to utilities, there is a desire to have the tools to build the system we need in the future, but we just don’t have them in place yet,” says Melissa Lott of Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

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