“An Electric Car Can Draw as Much Power as a Small House”

Hmm, this could certainly prove problematic for electric utilities and their consumers in the short-term…

Nationwide, utilities have enough power plants and equipment to power hundreds of thousands of electric cars. Problems could crop up long before that many are sold, though, because of a phenomenon carmakers and utilities call “clustering.”

Electric vehicle clusters are expected in neighborhoods where:

— Generous subsidies are offered by states and localities

— Weather is mild, because batteries tend to perform better in warmer climates

— High-income and environmentally conscious commuters live

…Adding an electric vehicle or two to a neighborhood can be like adding another house, and it can stress the equipment that services those houses. “We’re talking about doubling the load of a conventional home,” says Karl Rabago, who leads Austin Energy’s electric vehicle-readiness program. “It’s big.”

Sounds like Decatur’s most wealthy and eco-conscious neighborhoods need to host meetings, take a straw polls, and see how many people have a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt on order!

16 thoughts on ““An Electric Car Can Draw as Much Power as a Small House””


  1. Electric car owners are instructed to primarily re-charge vehicles overnight during periods of lower electricity usage and cost.

    On the other hand, the folks at BetterPlace.com discussed that what some companies propose as rapid charging stations that can charge the batteries full in 20 minutes would cause power failures unless massive amounts was spent in grid upgrades.

  2. Yeah, I know it’s been said here before, but because most of our electricity is coming from coal I really don’t think that buying an electric car is a sensible “green” move for Georgia residents. Unless they install a lot of solar panels (or a small nuclear reactor) as well. By the way, I hope this isn’t too off-topic, but I’d be really interested in hearing about anyone’s experience with adding photovoltaic panels to their house.

    1. But the AP article says this…

      “Electric cars produce no emissions, but the electricity they are charged with is made mostly from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas that do. Still, electric cars produce two-thirds fewer greenhouse gas emissions, on average, than a similarly sized car that runs on gasoline, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.”

      1. Well, that “on average” is presumably an average over the many ways that electricity is produced in the US. With a hybrid you can cut gasoline use (and therefore greenhouse emission) by about a factor of two, depending on the type of driving you are doing. The difference between a hybrid and an electric then is not terribly large on average.

        The question then is whether Georgia’s electricity generation is much more carbon-intensive than the national average. I was surprised actually to find that it’s not so much skewed to coal as I’d imagined: http://www.eia.doe.gov/state/state_energy_profiles.cfm?sid=GA shows 51% coal, 24% natural gas, 21% nuclear vs. 45% coal, 23% natural gas, 20% nuclear in the national averages according to Wikipedia. So, I guess an electric might still be better than a hybrid, even in Georgia.

      2. Of course, this discussion is only of value if you’re trying to solve an environmental problem. Some folks, however, measure electric car performance in terms of our economic and global relations problems. For them, switching to electric vehicles, even if they’re powered 100% by coal, still lessens or removes our dependency on nations that hate us and undercuts their ability to disrupt the global economy by cutting back on production.

        Americans may say they value a sustainable environment but, when push comes to shove, we value sustainable comfort more. To me, that’s why our becoming a leader in green innovation and production is so important. So the allure of coal can be lessened over time without our precious comfort taking a hit.

      3. off-off topic… DM – great blog, but your Comment box (the shaded gray one) can be hard to read at times, especially the darker section in lower right corner. Or is that my PC or my baby boomer eyes starting to fail?

        1. Yeah, i’ve heard that a few times before, but tech friends have had trouble replicating it. any chance you could send me a screen shot? also, which browser and version do you use? (Most people with issues in the past use Explorer.)

          1. Pretty sure it’s the IE getting hung up, not a DM issue. It happens to me when the page is slow to load. (Goes to normal when “Done.”)

  3. This is a pretty interesting article from the Oil Drum concerning electric cars. a few stats from the post: (http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7051#more)

    An electric car whose size would correspond to today’s typical American vehicle (a composite of passenger cars, SUVs, vans, and light trucks) would translate to 3 MWh of electricity consumption.

    In 2010, the United States had about 245 million passenger cars, SUVs, vans, and light trucks; hence, an all-electric fleet would call for a theoretical minimum of 750 TWh/year. . . The charging and recharging cycle of Li-ion batteries is about 85% efficient, and about 10% must be subtracted for self-discharge losses; consequently, the actual need to be close to 4 MWh/car, or about 980 TWh of electricity per year. This is a very conservative calculation, as the overall demand of a midsize electric vehicle would be more likely around 300 Wh/km or 6MW/year.

    But even this conservative total would be equivalent to 25% of US electricity generation in 2008, and the country’s utilities needed fifteen years (1993-2008) to add this amount of new production. As this power for electric cars would have to come on top of the demand growth by households, services, and industries, it would be exceedingly optimistic to expect such an increment could be in place in less than twenty years.

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