Wildfires and the Future of Electric Vehicles

The recent wildfires in California necessitated a planned shutdown by PG&E. This left 500,000 without electricity and offered a short term look into the complications that arise when wildfires ravage a large area of land. 

The shutdown itself was to safeguard the dry land from experiencing any further fire damage, as a spark from a downed power line could only add to the ferocity of the fire itself.

This fire allowed us to catch a glimpse of not only the precariousness of the grid when faced with climate-change induced weather, but also the challenges that electric vehicle owners can face when presented with a lack of electricity to power their cars. Simply put, you cannot get anywhere without the necessary electricity. 

These recent storms will hopefully increase initiatives to beef up the overall reliability of the grid, the urgency to fight climate change, or advancements in microgrids and battery storage technology to have emergency backup reserves for situations like this. 

Electric Vehicle Owners Without Power

Electric vehicles can still be scaled and the required infrastructure (charging stations and such) can still be laid to make their wide scale adoption easier, but it’s a scary prospect for consumers to bank on an EV as a reliable means of transportation only to be stranded. This happened with the recent wildfires.

Tesla sent out a warning to all Tesla users that they’d need to charge before PG&E shut off the electricity. This also came with the announcement that they were in the process of installing battery capacity capabilities for all of their charging stations in the affected areas. What resulted was a mad scramble to charge their vehicles. A lot of people couldn’t even make it to the charging stations. 


Managed, Slow Charging for EVs to Mitigate Grid Risks

As this resource reminds us as well, wide scale electric vehicle adoption would mean an increased demand for electricity. Because of recent grid weaknesses–think ERCOT’s emergency over the summer–it wouldn’t be farfetched to assume that increased EV usage would only magnify this problem that the wildfires have exposed. But electrical disasters can be prevented with managed charging, meaning that charging stations can offer electricity at certain hours to mitigate the risks of too much concentrated charging in one area.  

Another area that can prevent any risky spikes in electrical use (causing a potential grid disaster) is through slow charging methods instead of the inefficient, fast methods. Sure, it’s less convenient, but so is a power outage, after all.

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