The Hummer was once known as a gas-guzzling car and discontinued in 2010, was just reintroduced as having zero emissions.  It’s not the only electric car on the road. Still, it did make us wonder about power consumption and the impact on grids moving forward. Will we need to build more electrical power plants to keep up with demand? Not that we have anything against EVs or the Hummer, although it will cost you around 100K to purchase. But with almost half the cars on the road in 2050 expected to be electric, we thought it worthwhile to check it out. Here’s what we found. 

About Carbon Emissions:

First, a little information about carbon emissions: according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, transportation became the largest greenhouse gas source in 2016. But that’s not to say it’s at its all-time highest. In 2005 carbon emissions peaked, and from 1990 to 2016 grew by 21.5 percent. According to NASA, even though carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas, too much of it and other greenhouse gases ((methane, nitrous oxide, and (hydrofluorocarbonsCFCs)) can trap thermal energy increasing the earth’s temperature, leading to global warming.  It isn’t just vehicles that produce these carbon emissions, either. But the burning of any naturally occurring fossil fuel such as coal, oil, and natural gas. According to Energy.gov, these fossil fuels formed when prehistoric plants and animals died and were buried under rock layers. Without them, there’d be no electricity or industry. 

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) account for 28 percent of total emissions.  As such, “labels on today’s cars also include ratings on greenhouse gas and smog-forming pollutants. EPA provides online resources, such as the Green Vehicle Guide and the joint EPA-DOE website fueleconomy.gov,” for those who are interested in learning more. 

Power Grids

While emissions do not come from a tailpipe in EVs, they are emitted through the source of electricity at the power plant. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), California has banned the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. Hawaii and Washington aren’t far behind. However, doing so could boost power demand by up to 25 percent. Which, in turn, could lead to a shortage in supply. Much work will need to be done on the grid to handle the demand. For instance, Maine would have to produce 55 percent more electricity if every car in the state went to electricity.  

Whether EVs will lead to overall lower carbon emissions, one study reports that electric cars emit overall lower carbon emissions even as the electricity generation still relies on fossil fuels, except for countries where electricity is still reliant on coal. Countries like Sweeden with more renewable energy sources and nuclear power stations fare better with lifetime emissions are more than 70 percent lower than petroleum.  And as we mentioned, with more than half the cars on the road predicted to be electric by 2050, it’s an increase that would boost national power consumption by 38 percent. This is excellent, but in the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the nation’s power grids will adapt and what demand will look like during peak charging time frames like after work.   

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