Where Will We Get the Power for Full Electric?

What’s a parking garage without charging stations?

In San Francisco I could roll into a downtown garage, plug in, and go about my day. Here in my Washington State home, I’ve been parking at a downtown garage, but there are no charging stations to be found on the entire 6-floor structure. Could mine be the only electric car that parks there?

Unlikely. But the lack of chargers illustrates a potential problem that could be just around the corner as nearly every major automaker plans new electric cars in the coming years. That’s supposed to be a huge move forward for our environment, but there are some unanswered questions that need to be addressed:

Where will we charge these cars, and where will the electricity come from?

NBC News says,

While proponents see the shift to battery power as a way to clean up air pollution and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, skeptics fear it could put a massive strain on the nation’s electrical grid requiring billions of dollars in new infrastructure including the addition of many new generating plants. Potentially worse, that could actually increase pollution problems, they warn, especially if those plants were to rely on coal.

That same article continues,

A major charging station, like those at big freeway interchanges or Costco outlets, would draw as much power as the gigantic data centers used by Facebook and Google. In turn, experts add, a nationwide network could require dozens of new power plants or massive new investments in solar and wind farms.

So we have to acknowledge that a massive influx of EVs would require an unprecedented investment in the generation of more electric power. If that power came from coal, needless to say, we would almost certainly wipe out the environmental benefits of driving emission-free.

EV technology is moving fast, though. We aren’t sure yet what will happen in the coming years that could increase battery range so EVs will require a charge only once or twice per week.

Ideally, governments and private industry will invest in renewable energy sources to produce the electricity that will fuel our transportation future. What governments should do, and what actually happens, however, are sometimes two very different things.

Would you drive an EV if you knew the electricity that charged your batteries came from a coal-fired power plant?

-tgriffith

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