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Plugging In

Can the grid handle the coming electric vehicle load?

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2010

the power industry than overall PEV penetration. Beyond trying to understand PEV market penetration, which of course is important, we need further study to understand users’ charging behavior. It will be particularly important to understand what natural charging behavior would be, how it will respond to the electric industry’s attempts to influence it, and how this might interact with the design of vehicles and chargers. The effect in any particular region may depend importantly on the details of system load shape and seasonality, and in some cases might warrant efforts to understand and perhaps influence charging behavior even at fairly low penetration levels. Again, because of the lag between sales share and fleet penetration levels, power system planners might have an opportunity to learn from early experience with PEVs’ charging patterns in actual use, prior to their becoming a major source of load.



1. This article draws on research performed in the context of a state-level integrated resource plan ( Integrated Resource Plan for Connecticut , The Brattle Group, The Connecticut Light and Power Co., and The United Illuminating Co., Jan. 1, 2010). While that research focused on planning for Connecticut and the New England electric system, the observations have similar relevance for other regions.

2. U.S. DOE, Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center, at:

3. Assessment of Plug-in Electric Vehicle Integration with ISO/RTO Systems , ISO/RTO Council and KEMA Inc., March 2010.

4. See

5. Heywood, J.  et al ., On the Road in 2035: Reducing Transportation’s Petroleum Consumption and GHG Emissions . MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, Report No. LFEE 2008-05 RP, 2008.

6. Duvall, M., E. Knipping,  Environmental Assessment of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Volume 1: Nationwide Greenhouse Gas Emissions , Report No. 1015325, Electric Power Research Institute, 2007.

7. National Research Council Committee on Assessment of Resource Needs for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies,  Transition to Alternative Transportation Technologies—Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles , National Academy of Sciences, 2009.

8. Kintner-Meyer  et al., Impacts Assessment of Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles on Electric Utilities and Regional U.S. Power Grids , Part 1: Technical Analysis, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 2007.

9. Hadlew, S.W. and A. Tsvetkova,  Potential Impacts of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles on Regional Power Generation , ORNL/TM-2007/150, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2008.

10. Milligan, Porter, DeMeo, Denholm, Holttinen, Kirby, Miller, Mills, O’Malley, Schuerger and Soder, “Wind Power Myth Debunked,”  IEEE Power and Energy Magazine , November/December 2009.

11. A PEV’s electric emissions usually should be characterized in terms of the electric generator that is on the margin ( i.e., the unit that will increase or decrease its output in response to a change in load) when the PEV is charging, rather than the system average emissions.