The last few weeks have been brutal down in Texas as a massive and extremely uncommon winter storm left many residents without electricity for days. Some larger Texas cities are pushing hard to move municipal fleets to electric vehicles, and the power outage came with a tough lesson about EVs and the strains they could add to the power grid. During the massive storm, Austin’s entire fleet of 12 electric buses were inoperative due to the power outage.
Similar problems in the future can be an even bigger issue as city officials intend to begin purchasing only electric vehicles. Currently, the Austin transit agency has $650 million budgeted for the next 20 years to purchase electric buses and charging facilities for 187 vehicles. Officials are now scrambling to figure out how to deal with power issues like those caused by the recent storm. Many believe that what happened to Austin highlights a challenge facing municipal, state, and federal governments around the country and the world.
As more and more automakers vow to go to electric vehicles only an ever-increasing strain will be added to power grids that are often already strained. The massive push to electrification for automobiles will mean utility companies and power generators have to invest billions of dollars to bring additional capacity on board. Average everyday Americans all around the country will end up footing the bill for this with increased electric bills even if they don’t own an electric vehicle.
California faces a similar problem with rolling blackouts already an issue within the state due to summer heat. California plans to actively phase out sales of gas and diesel vehicles by 2035. If that goal is achieved, additional capacity for the electric grid will be required. One estimate has found that a utility company with 2 to 3 million customers would need to invest between $1700-$5800 in grid upgrades for each electric vehicle through 2030 to meet demand. That can reach a total investment of $200 billion compared to the $2.6 billion some companies plan to invest. Utility bills around the country will undoubtedly go up as utility companies aim to regain their investment.