California could reach its 2030 renewable energy goal without changing its electric vehicle charging system

California needs to charge electric vehicles during day, not night, to save grid, study says

California’s long-time goal of getting 30 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030 — and becoming a global leader in plug-in electric vehicles — is within grasp, according to the latest study from researchers at UC Berkeley.

The study from the UC Berkeley Center for Sustainable Energy, a member of the Berkeley Institute for the Environment, was published yesterday in the journal Science and is based on a modeling study of California’s electric vehicle fleet by the California Energy Commission.

The researchers conclude that the current electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including power plants and battery-storage facilities, are at 100 percent of their potential. The study estimates that charging the vehicles during daytime periods — even if some of the charging is done overnight — would save California about $1.2 billion each year in electricity costs alone.

“The most significant result is that we project that we would reduce the cost of running an electric vehicle by an order of magnitude because nighttime charging would require less infrastructure,” said lead author Charles Wood, an assistant professor of environmental engineering and energy sciences at UCSD. “And that would have a significant public benefit of reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”

The study also concludes that California can reach its 2030 target of renewable energy penetration without having to change its electric vehicle charging system.

“What we are modeling in this study is charging during the day because it would be faster, it would be cheaper, and it would be cleaner,” Wood said.

Wood said the study is based on a sophisticated modeling approach, where researchers analyze a multitude of elements that contribute to the electric vehicle charging and storage system in California.

The model also takes into account a number of important features — including charging stations that make the most use of microgrids, electric buses that can share charging time with plug-in electric vehicles, and charging infrastructure that is flexible, and can take advantage of a number of local energy production and storage systems — which the study did not include in its original modeling.

“It was an incredibly long process

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