Over the past few months, car sales have plummeted, with supply chain disruptions a significant factor in the sharp decrease. As a result, automakers have been forced to idle plants as they scramble for supplies, which in turn has delayed deliveries of new vehicles. Yet, optimism in the auto industry remains high. Why? Electric vehicle (EV) demand is growing, and U.S. automakers are going big to meet demand.
Last week, Ford announced an $11 billion investment to build new factories in Tennessee and Kentucky. The planned Stanton, Tennessee, “mega-facility” will synthesize batteries from raw materials and make electric pickups of all sizes. Ford will also partner with SK Innovation Co. to build two massive new EV battery facilities in Glendale, Kentucky. To meet its sustainability goals, Ford has pledged for its factories to be models of low-impact manufacturing. The factories will only use recycled water and will send no waste to landfills.
“This is a really pivotal moment for us,” said Lisa Drake, Ford’s chief operating officer for North America. She added that the company’s $7 billion expenditure is the largest single investment in the company’s history.
Perhaps the best-known domestic EV maker, Tesla, has also continued to grow despite dealing with supply chain issues. Just last quarter, Elon Musk’s company delivered 241,300 vehicles. That’s a 70% increase over last year’s numbers.
The takeaway? EV demand will keep growing, and automakers are leading the way. But are electric grids ready?
While Energy Fairness has always been an enthusiastic supporter of EVs, we’ve maintained that ensuring grid reliability to support the influx of EVs is critical. After all, EVs run on electricity and that electricity must be produced by generation facilities. That means we need a robust electricity portfolio and creative charging solutions to ensure that we balance the charging of new EVs with keeping the lights on for families and businesses.
The simplest solution to keep the grid from being overburdened? In a perfect world, EV owners would charge their cars during the late evening off-peak demand hours, as opposed to the early evening hours when electricity demand is at its peak. Smart charging is another solution. Smart charging is a system in which EVs are plugged in, but don’t begin charging until receiving a signal from the grid that power demand is at its lowest. It’s a popular idea that would make sense for consumers and for the reliability and stability of the grid.
Even with creative charging techniques, new investments in the grid will be needed to support EV growth. California, for example, has pledged to end sales of vehicles with combustion engines in the state by 2035. However, the Golden State’s power grid is already fragile, as evidenced by last year’s summer blackouts. A combination of new energy supplies and energy storage is needed to ensure grid reliability, especially with the expected saturation of EVs onto the nation’s roads. Without nationwide investment, the California example could become reality across the country.
The growth of electric vehicles should be cause for celebration. However, their impact on the nation’s electric grids is an issue we cannot afford to ignore.