Electric Cars Power the State in California

Plugging in your Tesla, or any other electric vehicle, at night will charge it fully in the morning, right? If PG&E, the troubled Californian energy giant, has its way, it may not.

Imagine this instead, if you don’t have an electric car. Imagine you go to the petrol station to fill up your tank before a road trip. The gas station has a low supply of gas because the manager failed to order a truck from Shell HQ to refill the tank. The intelligent gas pump detects when you put the pump on the side of your vehicle that you have more than half the tank. Instead of pumping gasoline into your vehicle, the gas station removes one gallon. You know, just to maintain the station’s stock.

To each, according to the ability to take, I would guess.

Terence West, writing for EnergyPortal, reported on Wednesday that “PG&E is exploring the possibility of electric vehicles to support the fragile power grid in the state.” In practice, this means that CEO Patti Poppe is looking forward to a time when “EVs will be able to feed excess power to the grid at times of peak demand to help prevent blackouts.”

What about the electricity PG&E sold to you yesterday? They’ll need to get some of it back because they didn’t produce enough electricity today. Personally, I think of PG&E’s proposal as “vampire billing.”

This concept is called “vehicle to grid” charging and involves sending energy from the battery of an electric vehicle back to the grid, while the car sits parked with the plug-in. The technology is in its infancy and costs are high, which prevents widespread adoption. EVs can play a vital role in ensuring grid stabilization during times of high demand for energy and solar power shortages.

In a sense, PG&E’s plan makes some kind of sense. You could also install a few of the giant Powerwall batteries to back up your Tesla solar panels. This would be enough power to last you a few cloudy days. Poppe sees PG&E solar panels, and your vehicle as the Powerwall that she can tap in an emergency.

There are still problems. For example, PG&E doesn’t produce or sell enough energy to meet Californian needs. This has been the case for many years.

There’s also the issue of cost. West acknowledged in his report that utilities may have to provide incentives, such as monetary compensations for the kilowatt-hours contributed.

You don’t have to say anything.

I have written many bad things about Californians, but never that they are so stupid as to pay twice for the same electricity.

PG&E’s vampire program will also reduce the battery life of electric vehicle owners. These extra charges/discharges accumulate and reduce the battery’s capacity to store energy.

Government Motors has a program to test vampire technology in place, but Poppe wants it expanded to all new GM models.

Alliance for Automotive Innovation reports that the cost of installing vampire technology is estimated at $3,700 for each vehicle. Who will pay for this? If state senator Nancy Skinner’s legislation becomes law and mandates that “two-way charging” is pre-installed on new electric vehicles beginning in 2030, consumers will be the ones to pay. Let’s not forget that charging is only one-way. EV owners are charged money for charging their cars. PG&E then taps into the batteries of owners to meet PG&E’s immediate needs. They may refund some money to consumers for the privilege.

Two-way charging will increase the price of this near-mythical $26,000 vehicle to almost $30,000.

Still, “Two-way charging” sounds so much nicer than “I want to suck your charge.”