electric cars charge on the Supercharger.
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  • Energy and transportation experts say electric cars won’t overwhelm the U.S. grid anytime soon.
  • Electric cars don’t use much energy now, and it will be decades before electric cars take over completely.
  • Electric cars can be charged when it’s best for the grid, and they can even store energy for the future.

Battery operated Tesla, Fordsand Volkswagens are not going to overload the US electric grid, despite the fact that Tucker Carlson and others Republican politicians to say

Last month, skeptics of electric cars had the field day if the California utility urged customers to save energy during the scorching heat by not charging their cars at certain times. Some conservatives question how the state plans to ban sales of combustion-engine vehicles by 2035 if it can’t handle the number of electric vehicles on the road today.

On his Fox News show, Carlson smashed electric cars as “a new way to overload California’s already crumbling power grid.”

Experts in the field of energy and transport do not agree with this. More EVs plugging into the grid will increase energy needs over time, requiring a more robust grid and smarter charging habits, they say. But there is no reason for immediate alarm. With careful planning, there will be plenty of electricity.

One day, electric cars can make the grid stronger and more sustainable.

Electric cars are not high energy consumers

Although California has more electric vehicles than any other state, they make up only 0.4% of all energy consumption during peak hours. Even according to estimates by 2030, about 5.6 million electric vehicles, trucksand vans will only account for 4% of peak loads.

“To say they’re putting a strain on the grid ignores 99.6% of today’s problems,” said Max Baumhefner, senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council, in a recent blog post.

Although electric car sales are on the rise, Americans keep their cars for an average of 12 years, so it will be a long time before the entire US fleet changes. The Rocky Mountain Institute, a sustainability research group, estimates that total energy demand in the US will grow by 1-2% annually as a result of the adoption of electric vehicles. That’s comparable to the rise of utilities during the energy boom of the 20th century with the spread of refrigerators and air conditioners, the group notes.

“Load growth is something that some utilities haven’t had to deal with for a while, but it’s generally within what utilities can plan for and manage,” said Chaz Taplin, director of RMI, adding that the bigger challenge will be transition of the country to renewable energy sources. Still, the network will need to be upgraded to handle the added load, experts say. According to a 2020 Brattle Group study, by 2030, 20 million light-duty electric vehicles on U.S. roads will require Investments from 45 to 75 billion dollars in more reliable energy production, distribution and storage.

Electric cars are uniquely flexible

Unlike a refrigerator, which must keep food cold 24/7, or an air conditioner, which can use up energy for hours on end on a hot day, a typical electric car can be parked for 23 hours a day. This gives a lot of flexibility in terms of charging time. Shifting charging to times most beneficial to the grid — such as at night when demand is low or during the day when solar generation is high — can significantly reduce peak load on the grid, even with increased demand from electric vehicles, experts say.

“For the foreseeable future, we can do a lot with the network we already have,” Nick Nigra, founder Atlas Public Policy, a transportation-focused consultancy, told Insider.

RMI sees California’s recent heat wave as proof that managed charging is working: people have changed their habits and the state has avoided blackouts. If drivers continue to charge whenever they want, “then that means we need to build an extremely reliable grid,” said Matthias Preindl, a professor of electrical engineering at Columbia University. But smart grid technology that instructs vehicles when to charge could do wonders for peak load management and negate the need for infrastructure upgrades in many areas, he said. Some utilities have smart charging programs, but they’re not yet commonplace.

A a recent study 2035 EV Ecosystem found that encouraging people to charge during the day could save Western nations billions in energy storage investment. An increase in solar generation will be needed accumulators to store electricity for nighttime use, but daytime charging reduces this need.

In the future, electric cars will be able to support the grid

Some experts believe that in the future, electric cars will be able to strengthen the power grid if they are used wisely. Vehicle-to-Grid, or V2G, technology convert plug-in electric vehicles into a distributed battery system that could help utilities store electricity for emergencies or excess demand.

The future is still far away, but car companies are dealing with related technologies. The Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck can act as a backup generator and supply the house with energy for up to three days, for example. Preindl said V2G will be key to wind and solar energy storage and the U.S.’s clean energy transition. “If all cars are electric, the amount of energy storage we have access to is huge,” he said.