The Texas power grid doesn’t exactly have the best reputation, especially in bad weather. Whether it’s a snowstorm or an extreme heat wave, the Lone Star State’s isolated power infrastructure seems to have a bit of a hard time staying afloat when the demand for electricity increases. And now charging electric cars certainly doesn’t help.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) announced last week that six of its power generation facilities went offline following high demand for electricity amid a heat wave. During the outage, the six plants would have produced enough electricity to power more than half a million homes. Electric carmaker Tesla, which is now headquartered in the state, has asked owners of its vehicles to avoid charging their cars during peak hours to help prevent a further surge in demand for electricity. electricity.
“A heat wave is expected to impact the grid in Texas over the next few days,” reads a photo of a message sent to Tesla vehicles in Texas posted on Reddit Last week. “The grid operator recommends avoiding peak charging between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., if possible, to help statewide efforts manage demand.”
The National Weather Service reports that the average temperature in the Dallas area for the month of May is around 73 degrees. During the recent heat wave, average temperatures exceeded 83 degrees and reached 94 degrees. A week later, however, things aren’t cooling down much. In fact, that goes for nearly half the country, as summer weather is expected to cover the southeastern United States with temperatures above 90 degrees this weekend.
For EV owners in Texas, saving electricity doesn’t just mean charging during off-peak hours. It also means adjusting driving habits, perhaps driving less in general or not turning the air conditioning down that far. Given that Texas also has the third highest number of registered electric cars in the United States, it’s easy to see how reducing the number of electric vehicles charging at the same time could reduce stress on an already taxed network.
According to research by AAA, electric vehicles can experience a range reduction of up to 17% with the air conditioning on in 95 degree weather. Tesla has previously disputed that figure, according to The edge, as do the owners. However, there is a clear way to ensure a vehicle spends less time plugged in: don’t take frequent short trips that allow the cabin to get hot between trips. Maintaining a set temperature uses less energy than cooling a solar-heated cabin, so reducing the number of short trips can avoid having to plug in as often during a time when the electrical infrastructure is in high demand.
Another possibility to help solve network problems in the future could be a technology present in some electric vehicles called two-way charging. Using energy stored in an electric vehicle’s battery, a vehicle can feed power back into the home through the same connector it uses to charge. Currently, Tesla does not offer this capability in its vehicles. This could be extremely useful during a power outage or simply to lighten the network load during peak hours. Once power is restored or off-peak hours are reached, the vehicle can then resume charging. States like California have even launched pilot programs to pay owners to use vehicle-to-grid charging capabilities to bolster the resilience of their own struggling grid, something Texas could also benefit from.
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