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Thread: Drought in the west, electric cars, catch-22

  1. #1

    Drought in the west, electric cars, catch-22

    So the West, which I'm in, is in a severe drought. Not sure about California but there's only been like 3 days the past month in the SLC area where the temp didn't reach at least 95, several days over 100--

    I read where California's PG&E is going to start cutting power, partly as wildfire prevention but I'm supposing AC usage isn't helping (I had 2 power outages during one 104 day last week)--and so Tesla has warned their customers to get those cars charged up before PG&D starts cutting power. And I suppose all electric-car owners are planning doing the same-?

    So, questions: is mass-car charging going to help overload their power grid? (catch-22 #1),
    -and-
    If people's electricity is out and they can't charge their cars, then what? -- use gasoline burning generators to charge them? (catch-22 #2)

    Just pondering - I have no idea what's going to happen, but I WILL say this drought is scaring the hell outta ME...
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  2. #2
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    Hmmmm, wonder how many gas stations will be pumping gas when the power is out? Sounds like a good time to have your car charging station connected to a battery bank fed by solar panels on your roof.

  3. #3
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    I am pretty sure at least one local gas station has a standby generator. One day I was getting gas and there was a loud noise like a generator running coming from one part of the building. I noticed what looked like an exhaust stack coming out of the wall. If it wasn't a generator it had to be some sort of engine.

    The only way a generator like that really makes financial sense is if they hope to sell a lot of fuel and convenience store items during a prolonged power outage. The power rarely goes out here unless a massive storm comes through and takes out power for huge swathes of customers. I have lived in my house for over six years now and have had less than 20 minutes total of power outages in that time. I installed a standby generator shortly after moving in since my well needs power to have water. Glad I only spent about $3,000 on my generator install since the power is so reliable.

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    Not all solar panels work if not connected to a grid. The car's battery pack could act like a grid but I'm not up to speed as EVs aren't very popular around here. What will have to happen is charging stations will have to be located near high tension power lines. They don't have to worry about trees and such shorting them out and causing a fire. Wouldn't that be funny. You have to drive your car to a charger, wait an hour, then drive it home so you can plug it into your house for power during a black out vs firing up your generator.

  5. #5
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    I think I read somewhere that the Governor of California was telling people to cut their air conditioning off at night. If this is true there must already be a shortage or power on the grid. Charging automobiles at night may be another drain that can't be supported, surely the news will be adding some light ot the situation by this evening.

    Looks like the green states are going to suffer the most. FWIW California has San Onofre Nuclear Power Station that probably could be repaired....fire that bad boy up or sleep in the heat
    We replaced all of the Steam Generators in our nuclear plants here in Virginia several years ago, it was a total success.
    Last edited by Keith Outten; 06-24-2021 at 2:45 PM.

  6. #6
    Texas was in a drought from ~1998 to 2014 (meteorologically speaking) IIRC. And it was not even our worst. We managed to deal with it.

    I watched our drinking water supply lake go from ~275,000 acre-feet to ~nothing, fed by a trickle in creek, fed by temporary pumps pulling from the Red River 70-odd miles away. Lost ALL my landscaping and I have zero right to whine about it - compared to others, I had it EASY! In 2010, a co-worker was 2 weeks late arriving to a job site, since he was a volunteer fireman trying to save 1/2 the houses in E.TX. In 2011, we had some 180,000 acres around Possum Kingdom, and 1300-odd homes destroyed by drought-inspired fire - and not even a Fed Emergency Declaration. We managed. Proudly.

    Hang in there! I'll bet y'all will manage too.

    (The EV owners may need to move...??)

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    I read where California's PG&E is going to start cutting power, partly as wildfire prevention but I'm supposing AC usage isn't helping
    The utility market in California changed drastically from deregulation. Before this, utilities were allowed a fixed percentage return on investment. This meant the cost of providing service had an amount tacked on and that became the total collected from the rate payers.

    Line items like tree trimming and insulator washing were profitable.

    After the change they were 'extra costs.'

    That is a very simple way of explaining the problem with electric distribution in California. There are other factors. Basically to avoid the cost of paying damages for fires caused by trees in power lines or insulators arcing, the power is shut off during dry windy periods.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
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  8. #8
    Right now, California has excess power during the day because of all the solar installed. So as far as charging electric vehicles, that's the time to do it. If you have "time of day" rates, it's also the cheapest time to charge your car. Less expensive than at night - which used to be the cheapest.

    Mike
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kev Williams View Post
    SSo, questions: is mass-car charging going to help overload their power grid?
    No. If an EV's computers sense a significant drop below what it considers normal voltage during charging, it backs off the current draw until things stabilise. Also, most EV's trickle charging on a 120v 20a outlet typically only draw around 12a, certainly less than a home's worth of air conditioners and refrigerators on a hot day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Outten View Post
    Looks like the green states are going to suffer the most. FWIW California has San Onofre Nuclear Power Station that probably could be repaired....fire that bad boy up or sleep in the heat
    We replaced all of the Steam Generators in our nuclear plants here in Virginia several years ago, it was a total success.
    An ageing light-water reactor located directly on the Pacific coast in a heavy seismic zone worked out great in Japan, what could possibly go wrong in Southern California?

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Kelly View Post
    No. If an EV's computers sense a significant drop below what it considers normal voltage during charging, it backs off the current draw until things stabilize. Also, most EV's trickle charging on a 120v 20a outlet typically only draw around 12a, certainly less than a home's worth of air conditioners and refrigerators on a hot day.
    You really can't charge an EV on a 120V outlet - it would take forever. Most manufacturers recommend a NEMA 14-50 outlet (240 volts, 50 amps). The car will only draw 80% of the rated current, so 40 amps. So if you have a car with a 75 KWhr battery and it's half empty, it will take you about 4 hours to charge it, while drawing 40 amps.

    Given the same situation, with a 120 volt outlet rated at 15 amps, the car will draw 12 amps. It will take about 26 hours to fill the battery given the same starting point.

    So you can charge your EV during the sunlight hours without any problems in California, providing you do it on a high capacity outlet. California has so much solar and wind that they used to pay other states to take their excess power during the daylight hours.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

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    Mike, not sure the numbers support your point that you can't really charge an ev on 120 Volt power. The average range on an ev is about 180 miles while the average daily drive in the US is only about 25 miles, so on average you only need to top up the battery about 14% daily. Using your number of 26 hours to fill a battery, topping it up 14% would take under 4 hours using 120Volt power.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Zeller View Post
    Not all solar panels work if not connected to a grid. The car's battery pack could act like a grid but I'm not up to speed as EVs aren't very popular around here. What will have to happen is charging stations will have to be located near high tension power lines. They don't have to worry about trees and such shorting them out and causing a fire. Wouldn't that be funny. You have to drive your car to a charger, wait an hour, then drive it home so you can plug it into your house for power during a black out vs firing up your generator.
    Not sure I understand why charging stations would have to be located near high tension power lines, can you explain why? Currently I think charging stations are located where they are convenient to EV owners just as gas stations are located where they are convenient to ICE car owners.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Garson View Post
    Not sure I understand why charging stations would have to be located near high tension power lines, can you explain why? Currently I think charging stations are located where they are convenient to EV owners just as gas stations are located where they are convenient to ICE car owners.
    The problem in California (at least one of them) is the risk of winds damaging the power lines. For example branch falls on one, shorts it out, catches fire, then falls to the ground. California has done back flips to try and prove most of these large fires are the fault of the power company. High tension lines don't have that risk since they are up higher and trees and brush and kept clear of them. When power is shut off it's the local lines. By having charging stations that aren't likely to get shut off it would reduce the fear of "what happens if I can't charge my car"? There's plenty of solar in California but not every person has it. When the grid is shut off due to fire risk solar panels are shut off from feeding the grid as well.

  15. #15
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    A few years ago I saw a presentation at a professional conference in which it was mentioned that 25% of the electricity generated in California was used to pump water. Thats the real Catch 22.
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