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Can the American power grid sustain EV adoption?

Oct 10, 2019
439
220
So-Cal
So even in 2021 email chain letters are still a thing apparently, (haven't seen a chain letter in like 12 years) and my boomer mom, of course forwarded it to me.

We all know the American grid is trash but is being worked on, and in some cases being neglected, or in the case of nuclear power in CA not being thought about in the future as many plants we have are scheduled to go offline in the next 10'ish years. However, EV adoption is a slow process and I'm pretty confident at the current rate of adoption the grid will be fine by the time there is a mass adoption.

Below is what was forwarded to me:

Toyota Warns (Again) About Electrifying All Autos. Is Anyone Listening?
Depending on how and when you count, Japan’s Toyota is the world’s largest automaker. According to Wheels, Toyota and Volkswagen vie for the title of the world’s largest, with each taking the crown from the other as the market moves. That’s including Volkswagen’s inherent advantage of sporting 12 brands versus Toyota’s four. Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bugatti, and Bentley are included in the Volkswagen brand family.
GM, America’s largest automaker, is about half Toyota’s size thanks to its 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring. Toyota is actually a major car manufacturer in the United States; in 2016 it made about 81% of the cars it sold in the U.S. right here in its nearly half a dozen American plants. If you’re driving a Tundra, RAV4, Camry, or Corolla it was probably American-made in a red state. Toyota was among the first to introduce gas-electric hybrid cars into the market, with the Prius twenty years ago. It hasn’t been afraid to change the car game.
All of this is to point out that Toyota understands both the car market and the infrastructure that supports it perhaps better than any other manufacturer on the planet. It hasn’t grown its footprint through acquisitions, as Volkswagen has, and it hasn’t undergone bankruptcy and bailout as GM has. Toyota has grown by building reliable cars for decades.
When Toyota offers an opinion on the car market, it’s probably worth listening to. This week, Toyota reiterated an opinion it has offered before. That opinion is straightforward: The world is not yet ready to support a fully electric auto fleet.
Toyota’s head of energy and environmental research Robert Wimmer testified before the Senate this week, and said: “If we are to make dramatic progress in electrification, it will require overcoming tremendous challenges, including refueling infrastructure, battery availability, consumer acceptance, and affordability.”
Wimmer’s remarks come on the heels of GM’s announcement that it will phase out all gas internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2035. Other manufacturers, including Mini, have followed suit with similar announcements.
Tellingly, both Toyota and Honda have so far declined to make any such promises. Honda is the world’s largest engine manufacturer when you take its boat, motorcycle, lawnmower, and other engines it makes outside the auto market into account. Honda competes in those markets with Briggs & Stratton and the increased electrification of lawnmowers, weed trimmers, and the like.
Wimmer noted that while manufactures have announced ambitious goals, just 2% of the world’s cars are electric at this point. For price, range, infrastructure, affordability, and other reasons, buyers continue to choose ICE over electric, and that’s even when electric engines are often subsidized with tax breaks to bring pricetags down.
The scale of the switch hasn’t even been introduced into the conversation in any systematic way yet. According to FinancesOnline, there are 289.5 million cars just on U.S. roads as of 2021. About 98 percent of them are gas-powered. Toyota’s RAV4 took the top spot for purchases in the U.S. market in 2019, with Honda’s CR-V in second. GM’s top seller, the Chevy Equinox, comes in at #4 behind the Nissan Rogue. This is in the U.S. market, mind. GM only has one entry in the top 15 in the U.S. Toyota and Honda dominate, with a handful each in the top 15.
Toyota warns that the grid and infrastructure simply aren’t there to support the electrification of the private car fleet. A 2017 U.S. government study found that we would need about 8,500 strategically-placed charge stations to support a fleet of just 7 million electric cars. That’s about six times the current number of electric cars but no one is talking about supporting just 7 million cars. We should be talking about powering about 300 million within the next 20 years, if all manufacturers follow GM and stop making ICE cars.
Simply put, we’re gonna need a bigger energy boat to deal with connecting all those cars to the power grids. A LOT bigger.
But instead of building a bigger boat, we may be shrinking the boat we have now. The power outages in California and Texas — the largest U.S. states by population and by car ownership — exposed issues with powering needs even at current usage levels. Increasing usage of wind and solar, neither of which can be throttled to meet demand, and both of which prove unreliable in crisis, has driven some coal and natural gas generators offline. Wind simply runs counter to needs — it generates too much power when we tend not to need it, and generates too little when we need more. The storage capacity to account for this doesn’t exist yet.
We will need much more generation capacity to power about 300 million cars if we’re all going to be forced to drive electric cars. Whether we’re charging them at home or charging them on the road, we will be charging them frequently. Every gas station you see on the roadside today will have to be wired to charge electric cars, and charge speeds will have to be greatly increased. Current technology enables charges in “as little as 30 minutes,” according to Kelly Blue Book. That best-case-scenario fast charging cannot be done on home power. It uses direct current and specialized systems. Charging at home on alternating current can take a few hours to overnight to fill the battery, and will increase the home power bill. That power, like all electricity in the United States, comes from generators using natural gas, petroleum, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, or hydroelectric power according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. I left out biomass because, despite Austin, Texas’ experiment with purchasing a biomass plant to help power the city, biomass is proving to be irrelevant in the grand energy scheme thus far. Austin didn’t even turn on its biomass plant during the recent freeze.
Half an hour is an unacceptably long time to spend at an electron pump. It’s about 5 to 10 times longer than a current trip to the gas pump tends to take when pumps can push 4 to 5 gallons into your tank per minute. That’s for consumer cars, not big rigs that have much larger tanks. Imagine the lines that would form at the pump, every day, all the time, if a single charge time isn’t reduced by 70 to 80 percent. We can expect improvements, but those won’t come without cost. Nothing does. There is no free lunch. Electrifying the auto fleet will require a massive overhaul of the power grid and an enormous increase in power generation. Elon Musk recently said we might need double the amount of power we’re currently generating if we go electric. He’s not saying this from a position of opposing electric cars. His Tesla dominates that market and he presumably wants to sell even more of them.
Toyota has publicly warned about this twice, while its smaller rival GM is pushing to go electric. GM may be virtue signaling to win favor with those in power in California and Washington and in the media. Toyota’s addressing reality and its record is evidence that it deserves to be heard.
Toyota isn’t saying none of this can be done, by the way. It’s just saying that so far, the conversation isn’t anywhere near serious enough to get things done.
YOU CAN IGNORE REALITY, BUT YOU CANNOT IGNORE THE CONSEQUENCES OF IGNORING REALITY!
 

Sophias_dad

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jul 29, 2018
1,459
1,489
Massachusetts
So, um, yeah, that's just silly. If I've done my math right, the US car fleet drives around 2,250,000,000,000 miles per year. Divide that by 3(aka 333wh/mile) gets up 750,000,000,000 kwh if we ran 100% of the cars in the US on electricity only. The current power production in the US is 4,000,000,000,000 kwh yearly, or roughly 5.3 times what the country would take if EVERY car becomes electric.

Simplifying that a bit, something like 1/50th of the electricity produced in the US would be enough to power a conversion of 10% of the US fleet to EV's.

How do we get to 10%, and when might that be, I'd wonder...

The current car fleet of the US stands at 289 million. Tesla just had its best-ever quarter in deliveries, at just over 200k. We can >almost< ignore all other carmakers, since the entirety of 2020 sales of all makers was 322k, but lets just estimate the yearly total of cars for 2021 at a cool million. There are already around 2 million EV's on the road, and adding a million per year will get us to 28.9 million sometime around 2046 (!). Even better, this is even more reason to not worry about EV's putting an awful strain on the grid, as the EV charging increase per year is therefore only like 1/20th(yearly, getting to 10% over 25 years) of the 1/50th that 10% would take... This translates into a load increase of 1/1000th per year. Hardly a 'shock' load :)

EV loads are also very easy for utilities to deal with. They can be set to charge overnight, or not charge at all if the owners are asked nicely. I'd wager that the daytime vs nighttime power usage in the US, particularly in AC zones, has at least 25% excess capacity available at night because of all the ACs that need to run during the day.

Returning for a moment to the million extra EV's placed on the road each year, that's probably around 15 billion miles, or 5,000,000,000kwh out of the 4,000,000,000,000kwh generation in the country today. Essentially nothing.

I wonder how much more solar/wind comes online every year...`Under a business-as-usual scenario, the U.S. solar industry will install an additional 160 GW of capacity over the next 5 years.` I had a bit of trouble getting the solar power watts to kilowatt-hour conversion, but taking 2018, I see we had 62MW of capacity and that generated 96Twh of electricity. Converting that to 160GW, that's 250,000,Twh of new output over five years, or 50,000twh of new solar output per year. That's roughly 10 times the electricity needed to power that new million cars driving 15 billion miles per year.

So, yeah, I'm not worried at all.
 

Darblish

Member
May 19, 2021
165
346
Columbus, OH
This is the same Toyota which calls the Venza (a plain hybrid) and RAV4 Prime (a PHEV) its “electric vehicles.” I think that tells you how invested they are in the proliferation of EVs in the US.

Toyota was instrumental in making “green vehicles” a mainstream concept here via the Prius, but they’re still heavily invested in hybrids (not to mention their 24 thousand patents related to hybrid systems). BEVs don’t make use of those patents, so there’s no reason for Toyota to want to move past hybrid cars as the “green” option anytime soon. Or ever.
 

RandyS

Fan of Elon
Jul 8, 2012
725
940
San Diego
Yes, the grid can sustain EV adoption. In two ways. In the beginning (kind of where we are now), incentives in rates can be given for people to charge at night when there is plenty of capacity on the existing grid. Second, the grid can be modified and expanded to handle this new load. Just like it was done when large amounts of TVs were added decades ago and when home AC was adopted in large numbers. I think the thing to remember that a lot of these doomsday forecasters forget is that the transition to EV will take place over quite a number of years, and that will give the utilities plenty of time to enhance the grid to be able to take care of the new EV load that is coming...And as the grid uses cleaner fuels, then the transition to EVs will be cleaner as well...
 

Rocky_H

Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2015
6,660
7,951
Boise, ID
I see naysayers spout this B.S. all the time. I even picture it in my mind in algebraic type expression:
"If X happens, Y can't handle it!!!"

X = Thing that will take a very long time
Y = Infrastructure as it exists right at this moment.

It's nonsense. It's smooshing together something from the future with something in the present, but they don't exist at the same time like that. It's pretending that full 100% EV adoption can happen instantly overnight, and then screaming about how our current grid is not ready for that. Well no $#&^, Sherlock. It will take decades, during which the grid will continue to modify and expand and adjust. But even so, this has already been looked at in several studies, and as has been pointed out, since it's primarily nighttime charging, when demand is lower, there is some 10%-20% of the car market that can transition without even needing any particular grid changes.
 

SmartElectric

Active Member
Jul 9, 2014
2,523
2,177
Toronto,Canada
Canadian here. Ontario has surplus capacity from nuclear power and hydro overnight to recharge 1 Million electric vehicles. We actually sell this surplus at a loss to the US. Our stupidity is your gain.... for now at least!
 

mociaf9

Active Member
Oct 18, 2018
2,821
5,790
CA
yet another reason to stop supporting toyota. that is just sad. so glad i'm off that train.
Toyota's position and past strategy makes a whole lot more sense if you look at it through the lens of Japan's energy system and future outlook. IMO, this 100% explains Toyota's long push towards hydrogen and fuel cells instead of battery electric cars. The issue is Japan basically can't transition to domestic renewable energy generation very easily. It's an island nation that is very mountainous (i.e. not much open flat ground for solar), is densely populated, and has a large economy with high energy use. Plus they've already long been a world leader in energy efficiency, so they aren't going to massively cut usage. The seas by Japan's coast are deep and steep, so off-shore wind has largely been a no-go. Because of these factors, they don't have the wind or solar resources to be able to transition to RE. This has changed some as floating off-shore wind power is starting to be developed, but it will still be a long time before that comes into its own. The end result is that for a long time the only reasonable path to a net-zero carbon energy grid would be via domestic nuclear and imported hydrogen.
And in a country that's already going to be importing lots of hydrogen for electricity, it's not unreasonable to push toward fuel cells instead of batteries. The problem is that this is very much a "Japan Problem", not an "Everywhere Problem". And the BEVs make so much more sense for most of the world and in particular, tying back to the thread topic, for the US.
 

finman100

Member
Feb 4, 2016
63
56
Albany, OR
hydrogen may have some issues reaching net-zero carbon. besides, why the blank do we use 3 times the energy (H2) to go the same distance instead of using the electricity directly in a battery? it. makes. no. sense. it is fighting physics laws and those laws hate to be broken. i will cheer toyota's failure to see all this.

ps I'm getting a hydrogen dispensing unit installed in my garage this weekend since it's the future. gots to be ready!
 

mociaf9

Active Member
Oct 18, 2018
2,821
5,790
CA
hydrogen may have some issues reaching net-zero carbon. besides, why the blank do we use 3 times the energy (H2) to go the same distance instead of using the electricity directly in a battery? it. makes. no. sense. it is fighting physics laws and those laws hate to be broken. i will cheer toyota's failure to see all this.

ps I'm getting a hydrogen dispensing unit installed in my garage this weekend since it's the future. gots to be ready!
Using 3X the energy to go the same distance makes perfect sense when you can't access the electricity but you can access the hydrogen. That's the whole problem. In the net-zero future, Japan can't generate the electricity needed and their grid can't be directly connected to places which can generate that electricity. Their solution is going to be to import hydrogen from countries like Australia, which has massive solar/wind resources and will use excess renewable energy to make hydrogen that they then export. And in an energy economy that depends on hydrogen already, focusing on hydrogen fuel cell cars isn't necessarily a bad idea. Toyota's failure is that they attempted to force a solution which would work in Japan's specific situation on to the rest of the world which doesn't face those challenges. And compared to BEVs in the US, for example, hydrogen fuel cells for passenger vehicles is big dumb.
 

LCR1

Active Member
Oct 24, 2017
1,346
995
Houston
So, um, yeah, that's just silly. If I've done my math right, the US car fleet drives around 2,250,000,000,000 miles per year. Divide that by 3(aka 333wh/mile) gets up 750,000,000,000 kwh if we ran 100% of the cars in the US on electricity only. The current power production in the US is 4,000,000,000,000 kwh yearly, or roughly 5.3 times what the country would take if EVERY car becomes electric.

Simplifying that a bit, something like 1/50th of the electricity produced in the US would be enough to power a conversion of 10% of the US fleet to EV's.

How do we get to 10%, and when might that be, I'd wonder...

The current car fleet of the US stands at 289 million. Tesla just had its best-ever quarter in deliveries, at just over 200k. We can >almost< ignore all other carmakers, since the entirety of 2020 sales of all makers was 322k, but lets just estimate the yearly total of cars for 2021 at a cool million. There are already around 2 million EV's on the road, and adding a million per year will get us to 28.9 million sometime around 2046 (!). Even better, this is even more reason to not worry about EV's putting an awful strain on the grid, as the EV charging increase per year is therefore only like 1/20th(yearly, getting to 10% over 25 years) of the 1/50th that 10% would take... This translates into a load increase of 1/1000th per year. Hardly a 'shock' load :)

EV loads are also very easy for utilities to deal with. They can be set to charge overnight, or not charge at all if the owners are asked nicely. I'd wager that the daytime vs nighttime power usage in the US, particularly in AC zones, has at least 25% excess capacity available at night because of all the ACs that need to run during the day.

Returning for a moment to the million extra EV's placed on the road each year, that's probably around 15 billion miles, or 5,000,000,000kwh out of the 4,000,000,000,000kwh generation in the country today. Essentially nothing.

I wonder how much more solar/wind comes online every year...`Under a business-as-usual scenario, the U.S. solar industry will install an additional 160 GW of capacity over the next 5 years.` I had a bit of trouble getting the solar power watts to kilowatt-hour conversion, but taking 2018, I see we had 62MW of capacity and that generated 96Twh of electricity. Converting that to 160GW, that's 250,000,Twh of new output over five years, or 50,000twh of new solar output per year. That's roughly 10 times the electricity needed to power that new million cars driving 15 billion miles per year.

So, yeah, I'm not worried at all.
Your calculations don’t make much sense. You can’t just take the overall energy production and start dividing stuff, It’s the peak numbers that matter. Total peak generation on my grid is around 68,000 Mw, peak usage during mid summer is around 64,000. So sure there’s plenty of generation around 2am when it drops below 40k but you’ll have to convince every person to charge at that time, for those who will be in apartments or whatever and charge at work or other public charging they don’t have a choice. So while looking at total power generation there is plenty of room it’s not the problem, it’s the peak and we’re already nearing it in a lot of places.

the second issue is where the power comes from, those peak loads are not just power plants running at 50% who then increase output, it’s other smaller plants that come online specifically to address the peak demands and that energy is not cheap. So even if you shift the load to off peak it will be much more expensive because you’ve not got these expensive plants running to continue that peak power.

the whole system will need overhauled to provide those higher base power loads and not keep peak plants running.
 

Sophias_dad

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jul 29, 2018
1,459
1,489
Massachusetts
Your calculations don’t make much sense. You can’t just take the overall energy production and start dividing stuff, It’s the peak numbers that matter. Total peak generation on my grid is around 68,000 Mw, peak usage during mid summer is around 64,000. So sure there’s plenty of generation around 2am when it drops below 40k but you’ll have to convince every person to charge at that time, for those who will be in apartments or whatever and charge at work or other public charging they don’t have a choice. So while looking at total power generation there is plenty of room it’s not the problem, it’s the peak and we’re already nearing it in a lot of places.

the second issue is where the power comes from, those peak loads are not just power plants running at 50% who then increase output, it’s other smaller plants that come online specifically to address the peak demands and that energy is not cheap. So even if you shift the load to off peak it will be much more expensive because you’ve not got these expensive plants running to continue that peak power.

the whole system will need overhauled to provide those higher base power loads and not keep peak plants running.

I don't agree, but whatever. There's no need to wait until 2am when the load drops below 40k, you could wait until end-of-business-day and have excess capacity. Even now, at peak summer times, you already stated there's 4000Mw headroom.

Its easy to incentivize evening-or-night charging, just make the differential rates bigger until it works as desired. If daytime energy needs get so large as to need more power, build more power production and increase daytime user billing rates. Some places even give extra-special rates to get permission to intentionally and remotely DISABLE charging at peak times.
 

Darblish

Member
May 19, 2021
165
346
Columbus, OH
I don't agree, but whatever. There's no need to wait until 2am when the load drops below 40k, you could wait until end-of-business-day and have excess capacity. Even now, at peak summer times, you already stated there's 4000Mw headroom.

Its easy to incentivize evening-or-night charging, just make the differential rates bigger until it works as desired. If daytime energy needs get so large as to need more power, build more power production and increase daytime user billing rates. Some places even give extra-special rates to get permission to intentionally and remotely DISABLE charging at peak times.
It wasn’t long ago that I thought it was crazy for utilities to give away smart thermostats. They were expensive and didn’t (at the time) save absolute gobs of energy. Then those same utilities started exercising their ability to control A/C usage during peak times, and it made sense.

Smart thermostats, at the time, didn’t cost a whole lot less than EVSEs do today. It would not be crazy to expect a day in the future where my electric provider offers me a free smart EVSE, with which they can slow or disable charging during peak hours.
 
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Sophias_dad

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jul 29, 2018
1,459
1,489
Massachusetts
It wasn’t long ago that I thought it was crazy for utilities to give away smart thermostats. They were expensive and didn’t (at the time) save absolute gobs of energy. Then those same utilities started exercising their ability to control A/C usage during peak times, and it made sense.

Smart thermostats, at the time, didn’t cost a whole lot less than EVSEs do today. It would not be crazy to expect a day in the future where my electric provider offers me a free smart EVSE, with which they can slow or disable charging during peak hours.
Welcome to Minnesota:

 

Darblish

Member
May 19, 2021
165
346
Columbus, OH
Welcome to Minnesota:

Wow!

Ohio is playing the “la la la can’t hear you” game with the existence of EVs (except for the annual registration penalty of course) so it always surprises me that other places are both aware of them and have plans for the necessary infrastructure.

There is one suburb of Columbus which is doing the second-meter-at-a-different-rate thing, but most of the area around here doesn’t have municipal power so there’s no benefit or option for individuals.
 
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LCR1

Active Member
Oct 24, 2017
1,346
995
Houston
I don't agree, but whatever. There's no need to wait until 2am when the load drops below 40k, you could wait until end-of-business-day and have excess capacity. Even now, at peak summer times, you already stated there's 4000Mw headroom.

Its easy to incentivize evening-or-night charging, just make the differential rates bigger until it works as desired. If daytime energy needs get so large as to need more power, build more power production and increase daytime user billing rates. Some places even give extra-special rates to get permission to intentionally and remotely DISABLE charging at peak times.
You don’t have to agree with me you just have to read the numbers. Peak is lasting well into the night. Has nothing to do with “business hours” and everything to do with demand, buildings are still cooled when people leave work and lots of lights are used, people start cooking, washing/drying clothes and using hot water all of which pull a lot of energy.
The attached picture from yesterday shows that peak was at 1700 and still used plenty of power well into the evening. The bars show total reserves which only has a 2kmw reserve at peak, but again, it was using very expensive power. And yes up until midnight there was plenty of power reserves, that again is super expensive. Those base load generators that are still online at 3am cost $50 a mw, those peaks prices are $300+ on a normal day and well over 4-$500 when reaching capacity. So yet again, just shifting the load will cost 6-10x more. You really think an energy provider will eat 30-50 cents a kwh when they’re usually paying 5cents off peak and customers are paying 10-12 cents average around here?

so again, you don’t have to agree with me, you just need to look at the data. And if you think a 2-4mw overhead at peak is good that’s horrible, that’s less than 5%. 2mw can be a single power plant around here and there are like 650 on the grid, so it’s not hard to imagine a small problem with a few plants to cause a problem. And you don’t have to imagine it, it happens all the time.
 

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stopcrazypp

Well-Known Member
Dec 8, 2007
10,783
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Using 3X the energy to go the same distance makes perfect sense when you can't access the electricity but you can access the hydrogen. That's the whole problem. In the net-zero future, Japan can't generate the electricity needed and their grid can't be directly connected to places which can generate that electricity. Their solution is going to be to import hydrogen from countries like Australia, which has massive solar/wind resources and will use excess renewable energy to make hydrogen that they then export. And in an energy economy that depends on hydrogen already, focusing on hydrogen fuel cell cars isn't necessarily a bad idea. Toyota's failure is that they attempted to force a solution which would work in Japan's specific situation on to the rest of the world which doesn't face those challenges. And compared to BEVs in the US, for example, hydrogen fuel cells for passenger vehicles is big dumb.
Except the only way proposed to make even a decent amount of hydrogen from Australia at reasonable prices is to make it from brown coal (which is just starting a pilot program). It will not be zero carbon. It's a fantasy right now that that there's cheap excess energy that is ready to make hydrogen. This is putting aside efficient large scale hydrogen transportation between the two countries has yet to be demonstrated. So it's not a good solution for Japan either if net zero is the goal. It's just hydrogen is what Japanese politicians settled on as the solution (similar to the Bush era here in the USA) and they are sticking with that for now (with Toyota being a big supporter).

And coming from a Toyota family, I have abandoned them given their frequent naysaying on EVs (with no end in sight so far, Akio Toyoda still remains a strong EV naysayer).
 

Sophias_dad

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jul 29, 2018
1,459
1,489
Massachusetts
You really think an energy provider will eat 30-50 cents a kwh when they’re usually paying 5cents off peak and customers are paying 10-12 cents average around here?
No, I think that an energy provider will increase prices to the point where a few hours at 30-50 cents a kwh will not hurt so bad. They'll do this either by increasing peak energy usage rates to 30-50cents(which will RAPIDLY cut that peak down), or by raising the average rates, or both. I'm not particularly happy about it, but we here in MA are paying around $0.25 per kwh(admittedly around half of that is transportation charges and half is the actual supplier charges).

Maybe ERCOT should consider interconnecting with neighboring states that might have extra capacity or different environmental conditions(leading to different excess capacity).

The way you are describing it, all EV sales in the state of Texas should be banned, and those that exist should be recalled. ERCOT cannot handle the load and has no clue on how to proceed. I'm being sarcastic, I'm sure that EV's won't be banned and I trust that ERCOT recognizes the problem and are working toward a solution. All the same, if I lived in Texas I'd be getting a natural gas powered backup generator and solar power installed.
 
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