Green

GM exec: Chill, Volts won't bring down the grid

As electric cars move towards the smart grid, there’s been a lot of worry about the cars overstraining the grid. But at least for now, GM and PG&E are united on the answer: Not a problem, guys.

GM is making the upcoming Chevrolet Volt, an electric plug-in of sorts that runs on a combination of gas and electric power. The company’s general manager of advanced technology Byron Shaw spoke at GreenBeat 2010 today, alongside Saul Zambrano, director at PG&E. The key to a smooth transition of plugging increasing numbers of electric cars to the grid, they said, are smart grid communications. (The Volt and the all-electric Nissan Leaf will begin selling this December.)

You just need a car charger that can communicate back to the utility, which can then manage load, Shaw said.

“If there’s a brownout situation impending we can stagger-charge all the Volts, so you won’t get a secondary evening peak. The Volts are not going to bring down the grid,” Shaw said.

The company predicts charging a Volt from empty to full will cost around $1.20 a night, Shaw said. Zambrano added that in the future, the addition of dynamic pricing  — where customers can read from home what the price to charge at various times are — will also help utilities manage loads and entice consumers to charge during off-peak hours.

What’s more, most car charging will happen in off-peak hours, Shaw said. People will charge at night or while they’re at work.

“Cars they’re like cats. They sleep 22 hours a day,”  Shaw said. “It will be all off-peak and pretty much zero lifestyle impact.”