Plug-In Hybrids Could Prove Costly to Electric Utilities

Without smart charging, plug-in cars could overwhelm the grid in the early evening hours.

Published: 05-Sep-2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If a large number of people start using electric cars or plug-in hybrids within the next few years, the sounds of exploding transformers could be as common as crickets chirping, utility experts warned today.
Utility and automotive experts discussed both the promise and the challenge such vehicles at a summit on plug-in hybrids at Ohio State University.

Ideally, electric cars or plug-in hybrids could be great customers for power companies. By powering cars at night, they could use the capacity of existing plants, letting utilities sell more power without radically increasing costs.

But the problem comes in when people charge, said Pedram Mohseni, a senior engineer for Duke Energy. If people get home at 6 p.m. and plug their cars in at the same time, that immediate draw on the power grid would overwhelm transformers and tax the full generation capabilities of power plants.

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