Electric Vehicles Prove Vulnerable to Grid Problems During Draft and Heat Waves

Electric vehicles have been promoted as an alternative energy source during blackouts, thanks to their vehicle-to-load (V2L) capabilities. The truth is that an EV will probably be left with no charge during a prolonged outage, as recent evidence from China has shown.
Electric vehicles prove vulnerable to grid problems during draft and heat waves 6 photos
Photo: @Teslacharging via Twitter
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Remember how power mysteriously fails at almost every Ford event, allowing the F-150 to save the day? Yes, some electric vehicles can power electric devices, charge other cars, and offer relief in power outages. Still, the reality is more complex than that. If the power outage continues long enough, the EV will be left without a charge, and there’s no way to use it as a vehicle until the power comes back.

This has become obvious in China after drought and heat waves have caused power problems in some areas. Without water, nuclear power plants and hydropower plants are not working. Heat also makes people use more electricity to power the air conditioning units, straining the already crippled power grid. Faced with the danger of having a blackout, Chinese authorities have started to cut power to less critical activities. Among them was the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

According to Automotive News, some Tesla Superchargers and Nio battery swap stations have been taken offline in Chengdu and Chongqing cities. Tesla turned off or restricted services at more than a dozen superchargers in the two cities. Only two remained in operation and only during the night. In the meantime, Nio has asked users in Sichuan to share their home chargers. Intrepid Nio users have even started trading fully-charged batteries for almost-dead ones at swapping stations.

Generic charging providers also experienced disrupted services, which left many electric vehicle owners with fewer possibilities to charge their cars. Teld New Energy, which operates around 300,000 charging stalls, advised drivers to check if the services are online before heading to the charger. The service provider also offers preferential rates to users who charge late at night or early in the morning to avoid the peak time for power demand.

Outages will probably happen more often as climate change brings more drafts and unpredictable weather. EV owners need to consider all this when planning their next car purchase. We imagine being able to power the house from the car is little comfort when the EV has no charge left. It’s also a reminder that mass EV adoption can’t work without massive investments in power plants, power lines, and energy storage systems.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
Cristian Agatie profile photo

After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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