Proponents and detractors of electric vehicles alike must have pondered the following question: “What if everyone had an electric car?” This concept has not only sparked serious consideration among auto enthusiasts, but also among scientists and eco-conscious citizens.
As a matter of fact, the topic has been the focus of several research that have assessed the repercussions of implementing an electric transportation system.
Here’s a quick primer on the subject for those of you just tuning in to find out why this is even a question.
As some of us may already be aware, our planet is warming, and climate change is now a very real phenomenon manifested by melting glaciers, continual floods in many regions of the world, and harsh seasonal fluctuations.
Climate change is mostly attributable to global warming, and carbon emissions are, itself, a major contributor to global warming.
You may have guessed the role of gasoline-powered vehicles and electrical vehicles (EVs) if you have been mentally following the logic chain up to this point. In 2019, gas-powered vehicles were responsible for 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
This might be the reason why ecologists and sustainability experts have been keen on electric cars. They’re our best bet for reducing global warming pollution significantly.
In spite of EVs’ low profile and remarkable emission-reducing capabilities, widespread public skepticism and criticism persist.
Since energy is used to charge electric vehicles, even those who enjoy the sound of a revving motor must evaluate whether or not they are environmentally good. Moreover, the majority of the world’s power is generated from the same fossil fuels that EVs do not consume.
If everyone made the conversion to electric vehicles, wouldn’t that cause the power infrastructure to ramp up its carbon emissions to satisfy the surging demand? What’s more pressing, though, is whether or not this surge in energy demand could even be met.
As a first step toward answering these and other issues, we have researched the potential outcomes of a world in which everyone uses electric vehicles, even though this scenario remains very speculative at present.
What will happen to the environment?
The environmental effects are the top focus for most developed countries. Whether or not the rise in carbon emissions from power plants will be outweighed by the decrease in emissions from electric vehicles has been investigated.
Rather from being hopeless, the outcome seemed optimistic. Since most automakers plan to phase out assembly lines for gas-powered vehicles by 2035, the outlook for electric vehicles is promising.
Both the governor of California and General Motors have stated their intentions to end sales of internal combustion engine vehicles by the year 2035. The government of the United Kingdom has announced that, by 2035, it would no longer permit the sale of diesel or gasoline-powered vehicles. What, though, about energy usage if the roads were filled solely with EVs?
According to a recent research, the United States would consume around 25 percent more power under these conditions.
Utilities will need to construct several additional power plants to keep up with this demand. Carbon emissions from power networks will increase, but they will be fewer than those from internal combustion engines even as those emissions climb.
This is mostly due to utilities’ increasing usage of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and water, which are making and will continue to make power systems cleaner.
However, internal combustion engines have no such wiggle room. They have always used and will continue to use fossil fuels like gasoline, diesel, and even more modern alternatives. Additionally, battery production is getting better as a result of ongoing technical upgrades.
The production of an EV battery now requires a great deal of carbon, although this process is becoming better all the time. As a result, the future is promising from an ecological perspective if everyone drives an electric automobile.
In this case, what will happen to the power plants?
The second major worry is whether or not utilities will construct new power plants and upgrade networks to accommodate such a dramatic shift. In a word, “yes.” Although it will take some time.
While ‘utilities can achieve this,’ says Rocky Mountain Institute’s vehicle-grid integration project head Chris Nelder, “it’s not going to be simple.”
Additionally, that makes a lot of sense as well. The electrical system would undoubtedly encounter a massive demand if a transportation agency decided to purchase one hundred electric vehicles and charge them all at once.
Investments in the millions will be necessary to supply that much power to that many automobiles. Utilities costs will rise as a result of this rush of investment.
To put it simply, the cost of power for Americans will skyrocket compared to current levels. The good news is that the money saved on gas will make up for the price hike.
To paraphrase a 2018 study from The University of Texas: “While it is difficult to anticipate exactly how much Americans will be spending for fuel, automobiles, and energy,” the widespread adoption of electric mobility will undoubtedly reduce the total cost of transportation.
How Will Power Grids Handle the Increased Demand?
How will utilities handle power spikes at odd hours, even if they build enough power plants to match the additional demand?
Generally speaking, the timing of electricity demand poses the greatest difficulty for utilities.
In California, for instance, the sun shines brightly and there is lots of solar power, thus there is a surplus during the day.
After sundown, however, this excess drops out dramatically. However, most people who possess electric vehicles wait until nightfall to plug in their vehicles at home.
Millions of Californians doing so would place a severe pressure on the state’s electricity infrastructure, which is already struggling to keep up with demand. However, this issue is not exclusive to the charging of electric vehicles.
The buses and vehicles of various transportation services and vehicle assembly facilities might be charged at the same time, as we’ve already said. Electromagnetic waves and the functionality of nearby electrical equipment can be disrupted during these peak charging hours. In light of this difficulty, how do authorities intend to address it?
Experts agree that adjusting charging schedules so that unused power is put to good use at peak times is the best course of action right now. Electricity suppliers around the country will need to becoming more flexible with charging schedules.
Some electrical suppliers, for instance, are already considering how to implement such a system. For those who own electric vehicles in Southern California, Southern California Edison provides significantly reduced prices for overnight charging. Because the sun is shining and there is lots of solar energy available then.
Many other services have also considered absorbing the cost themselves. This allows the owner to plug in their car and set a certain time for when they will need it again.
The utility will charge the vehicle while the owner is gone, so it will be ready for usage whenever that may be. The best thing is that the utility will do this when there is a surplus of inexpensive power.
Although these shifts will be difficult and need several legislative and regulatory adjustments, they are not impossible.
These adjustments will be simpler to adopt due to the lower cost and increased energy efficiency, as well as the reduced environmental effect.
Where will electric vehicles be charged?
The availability of charging stations is the final key issue to consider. One of the biggest problems that EV drivers face today is the scarcity of charging stations.
How many charging stations would be necessary if everyone switched to electric vehicles, and would people have to wait in line at each one because recharging takes longer than getting a petrol refill?
While it may be simple for homeowners to install a charger (which is expensive, by the way), apartment dwellers may have a far more difficult time tracking one down.
Street parking users will also have a difficult time locating a charging point for their electric vehicles.
Utilities that work to provide access to public charging stations will help alleviate this issue. As part of this effort, Vice President Joe Biden has proposed constructing 500,000 additional public chargers by the year 2030.
However, it will be difficult to create such vast sums of money, thus the government and the people will need to work together to finance this massive expenditure.
Given the prevalence of internal combustion engine vehicles, a complete transition to electric vehicles remains highly speculative. However, it is not a fantasy as the government and car manufacturing companies continue to shift their goals in accordance with more environmentally friendly practices.
The developed world is being asked to help create a world without harmful emissions, and the easiest way to do this is to adopt electric mobility.