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Future of Electricity

The Future of Cars Is Here, and It’s Electric

Photo: Courtesy of John Cameron

If you think of electric vehicles (EVs) as the future of driving, you’re wrong — they’re the present. Last year, total sales of electric vehicles in the United States hit 1 million, and while that number is dwarfed by the sales of old-school gasoline and diesel vehicles, EV sales are rising fast.

Benefits of EVs

There are many reasons you should make your next vehicle electric. For one, Manufacturers are increasingly betting on EVs, moving away from conventional and even hybrid vehicles. Electric cars have a lower pollution footprint because electricity generation produces lower emissions than fossil fuels, and electric vehicles save money — the cost of an ‛eGallon’ is roughly $1.50 less than a gallon of gas around the country.

Charging up

Some people hesitate to consider electric vehicles because they worry the infrastructure isn’t in place to support them. The fact is our EV infrastructure is significantly more advanced than you think. 

The majority of EV owners charge their vehicles at home, where the cost of electricity is the lowest — fully charging a depleted battery costs about as much as running the air conditioning for a few hours. And companies are increasingly offering charging stations to their employees, as are hotel chains and other public areas.

More importantly, there are already more than 10,000 charging locations nationwide and more are being constructed all the time. Contrary to misconception, charging doesn’t take hours — fast chargers can offer 60 to 100 miles of range in about 20 minutes.

Security & resiliency

Now is the time to invest in the capacity, resiliency, and security of the nation’s EV infrastructure. Our electrical grid and communications networks are vital to modern life, and will only become more so as EVs become more common and popular. 

If all cars were converted to EVs, we would add about 1,000 terawatt hours of demand to our current electric system, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), representing about a 25 percent increase from today. In addition to added the strain on the grid, cyberattacks against power plants could present a real threat.

In response to these challenges, the Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced the creation of the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). CESER’s responsibilities will include protecting the electric grid and studying ways to make it more resilient. 

Additionally, the DOE recently announced an $8 million investment in technology research to make the grid and other vital parts of our electric infrastructure more reliable and secure. This kind of investment is crucial because the electric grid EVs rely on is complex, comprising thousands of companies, different state and federal agencies, nearly 6,000 power plants, and nearly 3 million power lines. 

Ensuring this intricate system is able to support EVs will require identifying and implementing improvements to aging aspects of the grid, coordinating a national plan to add charging stations and upgrade capacity where needed, and adding regulatory solutions to enhance security against both physical and cyber attacks on the grid.

Making the grid ready for EVs includes providing easy access to chargers where people live and work, installing a network of fast chargers on the nation’s highways, regulating electricity rates fairly, and investing in and supporting the conversion of public transportation and trucking to EVs. Automobiles revolutionized society a century ago and the nation rose to the challenge. The challenge of electric vehicles is no less dramatic, but we’re already meeting it head on.

Jeff Somers, [email protected]

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