California electric windmills

California will halt sales of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks by 2035, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday, a move he says will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35% in the nation’s most populous state.

Source: MarketWatch

The new California electric car mandate issued by Governor Newsom will increase the amount of vehicles plugged into their grid by millions over the coming two decades.

While that may help to clean the air, is the state’s electric grid up to the new challenge?

As you can see in the table below, the Golden State has far more EVs on the road then any other state…potentially more than all other states combined!

What will happen though when they add millions of more vehicles to an already vulnerable electric infrastructure?

After all, just last month California had to initiate rolling blackouts.

The exact root of California’s rolling blackouts is still unclear as more power outages loom, and that’s allowed everyone to point fingers.

Energy experts Monday cited a litany of potential causes for the rotating outages that affected hundreds of thousands of California residents Friday and Saturday nights: ballooning demand, inadequate transmission, an overreliance on renewable energy and natural gas plant challenges during hot weather.

Source: Politico

So the California electric grid shows weakness on particularly hot days. After all, most of the state is off the coast, and once you get even as few as 20 miles inland, temperatures can spike by 20 degrees or more.

Which reveals yet another problem…

Joshua Tree National Park - California Electric

More than a quarter of the state is a desert.

Deserts in California make up about 25 percent of the total surface area. The south-central desert is called the Mojave; to the northeast of the Mojave lies Death Valley. The distance from the lowest point of Death Valley to the peak of Mount Whitney is less than 200 miles (322 km). Indeed, almost all of southeastern California is arid desert, with extremely high temperatures during the summer.

Source: New World Encyclopedia

How does the climate affect a California electric car?

Electric cars lose range and require even more charging when ambient temperatures exceed 95 degrees.

Extreme heat is also a drag on electric vehicles. When outside temperatures heat up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and air conditioning is used inside the vehicle, driving ranges can decrease by 17 percent, AAA reports. Extreme temperatures certainly play a role in diminishing driving range, but the use of the vehicle’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in these conditions — particularly the heat — has by far the greatest effect.

The problem is that, unlike a car with an internal combustion engine that can warm the cabin with waste heat, EVs have to tap into their batteries to power the climate control system.

Less battery power means more charging, which increases the cost to operate the vehicle. AAA’s study found that the use of heat when it’s 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside adds almost $25 more for every 1,000 miles compared to the cost of combined urban and highway driving at a balmy 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Source: The Verge

In fact, some electric car models will even warn their owner to plug in the car when not in use if the ambient temperature exceeds 95 degrees. Don’t forget that the batteries are largely stored inside the cabin of the car…and you know how hot it can get inside with the sun glaring down on even a 90 degree day.

electric cars charging

The car will then use the extra power to operate its cooling system, thus preventing the batteries from dangerously overheating.

In Summary

  • At this time, California has somewhere around 300,000 +/- electric vehicles currently on the road and Governor Newsom has mandated that there will be millions more over the next 15 years.
  • The California electric grid has just last month demonstrated significant weakness on hotter days.
  • Electric cars require more charging on hotter days.

Just from a layman’s perspective, it doesn’t look like California presently has anywhere near enough electric infrastructure to fulfill this mandate, and not even remotely enough power plants under construction (or even planned) to get there either.

What do you think? Will Governor Newsom be able to effectively make this dream come true? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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