Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

ERCOT Says the Grid Can Handle Electric Cars

Photo by KUT News

A Chevy Volt gets a charge in Austin.

The potential for electric cars to reduce pollution and save drivers some gas money has spurred a market for the vehicles (not to mention government investment).

But there’s always been a lingering concern about the vehicles, especially in Texas where we often hear about the fragility of our electric grid. The worry goes something like this: “If everyone started driving an electric car, could the grid be strained to the point of collapse?”

Probably not, says Trip Doggett.

Doggett is CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas – which oversees the state’s electric grid. On Tuesday he told lawmakers on the Senate Natural Resources Committee that he doesn’t believe even widespread adoption of electric vehicles would have any negative effect on the transmission system.

Doggett offered it was possible that there could be some localized disruption to electric distribution if electric cars become widely adopted in some electricity markets.

“The localized distribution companies may have some localized challenges as electric vehicles are located within neighborhoods,” Doggett said. “In the long term there could be some impact to our resource adequacy challenge, but my belief is that’s not a significant issue in the near term.”

There is research under way on the effects of electric car use on local grids, some of it right here in Texas.

If the electric vehicle population continues to grow Doggett says there is one challenge ahead: making sure owners don’t get into the habit of charging their cars during peak electric use hours – like on a hot summer afternoon.


  • What a dope! EV commuters will recharge ASAP at work, putting more demands on system during peak periods. ERCOT=oxymorons!

    • Patrick

      Off-peak rates will mean that most people will charge at home overnight. There is EV charging at my work, but it is $1.20 an hour, it is much cheaper to charge at home.

    • Paul Scott

      Neil, you are ignoring evidence to the contrary. As Patrick says, if you want to pay double for the privilege of charging at work during peak hours, knock yourself out. But most “smart” people will charge at night during off-peak hours when electricity is cheap.

    • drkennethnoisewater

      If there was an economic advantage in TX to charge at off peak times, I would. Since there is no such incentive, you point is moot until EVs strain the network to the point that tiering comes into play. Plus, utilities get to actually profit from the base load that usually goes to waste overnight when EVs are plugged in, which is a win for them. AFAIK there is no residential tiering for time of day in Central TX. I kinda wish there was, as I would save $$ since my house is unoccupied during the day and I would take advantage of off peak rates. Plus, TOU paying peak rates for solar net metering would make getting an installation more economically feasible.

  • Tommolog

    This is the same conclusion that most studies result in. Sure if 10,000,000 electric cars were suddenly on the road tomorrow, there would be some problems. However electric cars will gradually increase in numbers and the utilities will have more than enough time to figure out what needs to be upgraded and what doesn’t. A very large percentage of charging will be done at off peak hours anyway and there is an abundance of excess electricity during those hours anyway. I’ve been driving electric for over three years and 80% of my charging is off peak. People want to save money and the off peak rates are a great incentive to get people to charge then. If you could buy gas for 40% less just by purchasing it after midnight I bet a lot of people would be doing that also. It’s even easier with your EV though because you just set it to charge during off peak hours and it does. That would be like you car starting itself up, driving to the gas station, filling up and returning to your garage by itself while you are sleeping. I’ll never go back to gas.

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