Electric Cars Over-taxing California Grid?

I found a news story about how BMW was offering incentives to it’s CA i-3 owners to schedule charging their electric cars for low demand (off peak) time-frames…Buried in the story was this little tidbit: “BMW has also taken a large cache of used lithium-ion batteries previously used to power Mini E hatchbacks to create a stationary energy storage unit.”

My question is what happened to all the Mini E models from which these batteries were gleaned? Have these cars been scrapped or has there been a huge battery swap-out of “defective” batteries that can now be used in a different setting?

Power demand is lower at night. Good time to charge a battery storage yard. Safety officials shot down a plan to pump river water up to bluff area at night and than let it flow down during day to generate higher priced “day” power. Actually made sense from a dollar standpoint. But the stone bluff basin area was too porous and officials thought it might collapse eventually. Not good for folks who live below.

This is the dirty little secret in the electric car story. These things draw a BUNCH of kilowatts from an already strained California grid. Peak OFF hour load comes about 6-7 pm right when everyone is cooking, washing and cooling the home. It is also when the depleted car gets plugged in and draws the greatest current to charge the battery.

Power companies actually thought they could use the car’s battery to buffer this power surge to even out the demand (the “smart grid”) without considering the state of charge at the end of a commute. Stupid-stupid-stupid! I personally would not want the power company to be shortening the life of my electric car battery by using it as a grid-buffer unless they were willing to pay me for the privilege.

I haven’t heard about any wholesale battery swap-outs for Mini-E’s. Maybe durability test model leftovers??

Even in Minnesota where we have a healthy grid, it doesn’t take many hot days running air conditioning full blast before we have brown outs. The power grid is the weak link and time we deal with it, electric cars or not. I just don’t think wind mills and solar panels will do it.

I wonder if the engineers of those electric cars and chargers have put some sort of scheduling software into the charger so that the owner can come home, plug in the car, but the charger will wait until demand for power goes down.

It could be a simple clock timer or if the house is on the smart grid (electronic metered), the power company could send out a signal to start the chargers as capacity becomes available. They could even cycle the the cars so that all of them don’t come on at once creating secondary peak demand.

Today, are there even that many electric cars in CA? Anyone have that number? That, together with the electric capacity of CA could tell us something.

CA in state generating capacity is 198,871 GWh
including imports, that is 296,628 GWh (call it 300 TWh)

CA has almost 143,000 electric cars sold between December 2010 and March 2015 (wikipedia)
some have 7 kW chargers, some are higher, say average is 10 kW.

300 TWh, I assume that is per year? that is 3.4e7 kwatts
on the other hand, 143000 cars, half of them charging at the same time, will use 143kx10kw = 1430MW or 1430000 kW

Divide the two to get 0.042 or 4.2% of capacity

If I did the math right.

So if half of the electric cars start to charge at the same time, that is 4% of capacity.

And if the number went up by a factor of 10, that would be 40%, overload.

Bill, there aren’t very many electric cars ANYwhere, including California. But it doesn’t take very many to overburden a system that has had greater and greater demands placed on it with the growth in electronics, computers, appliances, hot tubs, dishwashers, pool heaters ect, ect, ect. Now we bring in a power hog like an electric car (or 2!) that commuted for 40 minutes with the AC on that now needs to be recharged before 6 am the next morning.

It takes hours to finalize a sales contract to buy a car and install the charger. It takes years to upgrade the power grid. The problem can appear literally overnight!

Sure, it can be scheduled not to start until after peak hours IF, there is enough time to fully recharge the battery before the 6 am commute and IF the average person who can’t figure out how to schedule their PC’s backup to run once a week can program their car-charger.

yes, I agree. Given that CA is borrowing from other states for 1/3 of their capacity, they are already in overload. The 4% from electric cars can push it over the edge.

You only back up your PC once a week? I hit it every hour (Apple “time machine”)

There can be smart chargers installed,but if the system is already overtaxed,the only remedy is more capacity,maybe California can consider reducing the amount of consumers if they dont want more generating capacity,another example of population exceding carrying capacity,maybe some of these savy folks should consider installing a solar charging station,which will cost a lot.

This isn’t as simple an issue as it appears. The reason power grids are strained is largely because the lobbyists for the power companies got legislation passed specifically to prohibit small generating facilities and privately owned hydroelectric generators. Using one’s own stream and a small hydroelectric generator requires the same permitting, impact studies, and engineering reviews that a new Hoover Dam would. This was done purely to control the market. The are an estimated 80,000 dams in the U.S, yet less that 3% are generating power. And yes, there are producers of small hydro generating equipment trying to get the laws changed. They’ve had some success, but it’s still limited.

If you are going to install a charger, you might as well install a 220VAC unit and charge it in 4 hours. Even if you do it with a 120VAC unit, it will take 8 hours, and starting at 10pm around here is at the economy rates. Our economy rates start at 9pm. Even if your hideous, disgusting, rats-ass awful commute starts at 5, almost all the charging will be at the lowest rate of the day.

We have a small hydroelectric facility around here,the local co-op readily buys the power,its at place called Falling springs,beings it was grandfathered I dont think He has much problem,I think it originally powered a fertilizer plant.On the other end of the county,is the Worlds largest pump storage facility at a place called Backcreek,they pump water uphill during low demand and release it during peak demand,it has saved the construction of additional generating plants,Judging by that I would say we have plenty of off peak power to charge electric autos.

I don’t want to start a war or anything but I still remain unconvinced of the wisdom of everyone generating their own power. Nice concept but . . . There’s a family in town that just put in about 300 square feet of solar collectors on their roof. Their power cost is about $100 a month. I believe the cost of the panels was from $20 to $40,000. They claim they will generate more than they use and will get a credit each month and the system will be paid for in 4-6 years. Of course the calculation includes huge government subsidies and power company subsidies in order to meet legislation passed against the power company. Without the subsidies, payback has to be in the 30 plus year range with anticipated maintenance, replacement, etc. We’ll see if this comes to pass but still I remain skeptical. I don’t know what happens when you have to replace the roof after the normal 20-25 years but I assume the panels have to come off and be reinstalled again.

I’m not convinced that solar is the best way to go for individuals, but I believe there are numerous opportunities out there in rural areas (which comprise most of the U.S.) for individuals to harness hydro power… IF the regulations were to be loosened up and the hydrogenerator producers were to pursue the market. Cooperatives could provide power for a neighborhood, for example.

The regulations making it cost-prohibitive have been I some cases lessened, and some of it is starting to happen in the Midwest.

Don’t misunderstand me, I know that regulation is necessary. It would be an unsafe disaster to have unskilled people hooking millions of generators to the public power lines, and even extremely unsafe to have people hooking up to cooperative generating stations without ensuring the proper safety precautions. just as people are required to have a transfer switch installed by a licensed electrician before plugging in a backup generator, precautions must be taken. However, many of the regulations were designed to prevent people from going off the electrical grid, not for safety.

I’ve been checking into solar panels since my college days. I did it again after moving to Florida. Considering my all-electric home consumes $2200 worth of electricity a year, I can’t justify a $30,000 outlay to cover half my power needs. That’s how much I can physically fit on the portion of my roof that faces the ample sun we get. And I’m reducing the AC costs by adding insulation and better windows, ect. It would generally be available to charge my electric car, if I had (or built) one though since it would be a toy, not a commuter.

I’ve looked into them in the past, but up here in NH they’re really not practical. Way too much of our weather is overcast, days are too short in winter, and then there’s the snow… they don’t work well covered in snow.

As regards BMW’s effort, it’s good PR, especially in energy-sensitive California, but IMHO it’ll be a long time before EVs become significant in number to really create a problem on the grid. California has the home air conditioners and pool pumps (EVERYBODY in southern CA has a pool to cool down in) to worry about.

I wonder, do youse guys in California have the same type of insulation standards as we do in the colder climates? Up here in NH we’ve had in the past initiatives to assist homeowners in preventing heat loss in the winters. The public service companies would come do an energy assessment of a private residence and provide the homeowner with a list of recommendations, many of which were downright inexpensive. That could go far towards reducing the demand on the grid from home AC systems.

Getting private residence loads on the grid lowered with such an initiative might go far toward the promotion of EVs. Without concerns about loading the grid down, perhaps more Californians would consider EVs.

Here’s the problem I see with a so-called “smart” charger. Suppose you get home from work at 5pm, plug in the car, and the charging won’t start until the off-peak time begins at, say 9pm. At 8:45 pm you get an emergency call, or for some reason need to use the car again. Its sitting there mostly depleted, AND, if you drive away somewhere, it won’t get recharged at all unless you get back home quickly, suppose you don’t.

I have solar panels on my roof. 24 SunPower 230w panels installed late summer 2010. I get 4 electric bills per year (Dec - Mar) not counting the $7.50 a month the electric company charges me just for existing. On a scorching summer day I can run my central air full blast all day AND spin the meter backwards if I’m not doing laundry and stuff at the same time.

For those who would ask, going full tilt, no clouds, my system tops out at about 5.1 kw/hour, most I’ve ever gotten in a day is just under 40 kw, I get a lot of 30kw+ days in the summer. I get 800 to 900+ kw per month in the summer months, and at least 300kw/ month in Dec & Jan. About 7000 kw a year.

Overoptimistic salesman estimated 6 - 7 years to recoup the investment, my estimate was 10 - 12 years but I did it anyway because I’ve been fascinated by solar panels since I was a young child, actually getting them was like wow, I’m living in the magical future 21st century world.

Also, this was in the post economic collapse period when the gov’t was giving out free candy (tax credits) to everybody but me. I make too much money to get any poor people welfare, and not enough money to get any rich people welfare, so this was a way for me to get my share of free candy from Uncle Sugar.

Co-incidentally, I had just had my roof replaced about 2 years before I did the solar panels. Seems to me the underlying roof should last longer because the harsh sun and ultraviolet rays which would break down the roof are beating down on the solar panels instead while the actual roof stays in the shade. The solar panels are warrantied to be producing at 90% of original production after 10 years, and 75% after 25 years. My understanding is that the price of the panels has been steadily going down, and the efficiency going up. I often wonder what it would cost me to do this project today.

The Nissan Leaf is equipped with a charging timer to take advantage of off peak energy rates;

Use charging timer to schedule when the Li-ion
battery charges. You can save two timer settings
that include the charging start time and end
time. You can apply one of the timer settings to
each day of the week. The vehicle automatically
begins charging at the scheduled times when
the charge connector is connected to the
vehicle. The timers do not need to be reset
each time the Li-ion battery needs charged.