How Electric Vehicles Could Fix the Electrical Grid

Excerpt from news.columbia.edu

Transportation is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, accounting for about a third of all emissions. We could quickly lower those emissions by electrifying vehicles, but there’s just one hitch: we don’t currently generate enough power.

“If all transportation goes electric, we are effectively doubling demand,” said Matthias Preindl, an EV expert at Columbia Engineering. “And the grid isn’t built to withstand that.”

Despite some investment and expansion since the 1950s, the U.S. grid has a mostly aging fleet of generators, and maxed out transmission loads due to congested lines. Making matters worse, extreme weather events like heatwaves and wildfires have repeatedly melted power cables.

The U.S. would have to invest $125 billion by 2030 just to keep up with EVs’ growing demands for power, according to a 2020 study. But what if the EVs themselves could be part of the solution, adding power to the grid? Columbia News spoke with Preindl, a professor of electrical engineering, and Daniel Bienstock, a professor of applied physics and applied mathematics, as well as industrial engineering and operations research.