Rural electric companies modeling impact of EVs

Rural electric providers are preparing for the potential impact that increased electric vehicle use could have on the electrical grid.

Head of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative Sean Middleton tells Brownfield his company is investigating where there are shortfalls in hopes of preventing outages that are caused by the added stress from charging EVs.

“If they were spread out and they come in slowly, it’s not as big of a challenge,” he says. “The problem is when there is a concentration and I think that’s where many operators have to evaluate parts of their system to see what that could do.”

He says residential areas and subdivisions pose a challenge for extensive rebuilds because it could require the installation of new underground cables or larger lines.

CoBank energy economist Teri Viswanath tells Brownfield the distribution network for the current electric grid was not designed to handle the charging needs of widespread EV use.

“Depending on the charging patterns, they may need to invest somewhere between $1,700 to $5,800 in grid upgrades per electric vehicle,” she says.  As a result, consumer rates could increase by about 12 percent. 

Viswanath says the car’s battery could be part of the solution for stressed networks since once cars are charged, the power demands slow.  But, she says more research and consumer education are required.

Middleton says the cooperative is embracing the technology with an electric car at its headquarters in Auburn, Illinois for customers to test drive.

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