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What Does Ford's Commitment to Electric Mean for Grid?

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Ford is going to invest $29 billion in autonomous electric vehicles, the motor company’s CEO, Jim Farley, informed investors yesterday during their Q4 call. This should really come as no surprise to auto-industry observers. Afterall, Ford has been headed in this direction for a while, having paid $1 billion in 2017 for Argo AI, an autonomous driving AI firm. What’s more, Farley told listeners that Ford expected to finally launch their autonomous vehicles in 2022. It’s here, folks. 

What does the seemingly inevitable supremacy of electric vehicles mean for the grid? It’s hard to say because we still don’t know how these things are going to be used. Yes, early adopters drive their electric cars much the same way as they would an old combustible engine automobile. However, the developers of the vehicles are headed towards “mobility”, and away from personal cars. It seems likely we’ll see a rise of ride sharing and other transportation services. This change might invite different consumption behavior, which would inform the power providers’ response. 

However the EV revolution plays out, it’s safe to assume it will dramatically change the grid. More charging stations and automation are a given, but there are a lot of question marks.

 

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Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Feb 11, 2021

First you need to remember that an EV uses between 1/3rd and 1/5th of the energy used by an ICE vehicle. Allowing for that, electrifying all road transport would increase electricity demand by about 20%

Second even when EVs reach 90% of new sales they will still only represent about 10-15% of the vehicle fleet and it will take another 8-10 years for them to reach half the fleet.

 Then the transmission and distribution grids are sized for peak demand which is almost double average demand, so if smart charging is enabled the grid with small adjustments could deliver at leasst 50% more energy than it does now. In the meantime energy efficiency and behind the meter generation will reduce demand on the grid by 1-2% per year over the next 20 years. 

 In sum while there will be local difficulties, reduction in grid demand from energy efficiency and behind the meter generation will more than offset demand from EVs

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 11, 2021

Second even when EVs reach 90% of new sales they will still only represent about 10-15% of the vehicle fleet and it will take another 8-10 years for them to reach half the fleet.

Great point, Peter-- I think the more immediate area to address will end up being the transformations that might happen more quickly, and that's fleets of vehicles (e.g., an Amazon facility that purchases all trucks, a government entity that decides its procurement will be all EVs, etc.). Even still, for budgetary reasons those will likely take a few years to actually turnover in the same way as private vehicles, but those are going to be the EV on the grid hot spots sooner than other areas of the transport sector

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Feb 17, 2021

Curious what happens to demand in the evening when everyone comes home and plugs in their EV's - will peaker plants have to support the load?  How will renewables support this in the evening when the sun is not shining and wind is not blowing?  Will batteries storage be able to pick up the load?  

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