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EVs face bumpy road to future


Electric vehicle enthusiasts are optimistic. They tout the lack of carbon emissions, pollution and other fossil-fuel ills as they welcome a clean-driving future.

That’s all well and good – but there’s a lot of road to cover between here and there.

For one thing, electric vehicles need chargers. And the more people you anticipate hitting the Pike in their EV, the more chargers necessary. Which calls for more electricity. Much more.

Highway service plazas like the ones along the Mass. Turnpike could need 20-plus chargers and might use as much electricity as a small town to accommodate fast-charging on peak travel days, a new National Grid study found.

As the State House News Service reported, to meet its decarbonization commitments, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card has said that Massachusetts will need to have at least 200,000 passenger electric vehicles on the roads by 2025 and 900,000 by 2030. There are so far about 55,000 EVs and plug-in hybrids on Bay State roads.

One of the reasons that has consumers tapping the brakes on an EV purchase is the fear that there won’t be a charging station readily available when they’re on the road. Making charging stations accessible along major highways and at predictable intervals is key to making it easier for people to switch.

National Grid looked at charging station behavior and traffic data to model the expected power demand growth between 2022 and 2045 across 71 locations in Massachusetts and New York, mostly rest stops and service plazas on major highways.

“The electric highway future is happening now. The timelines required for grid infrastructure upgrades, particularly transmission, are much longer than those required for EV supply equipment installation. While charger installation can be completed in a matter of months, larger transmission interconnections and upgrades can take as long as 8 years to construct,” the study said.

The utility company said that more than a quarter of the 71 sites studied are expected to need charging capacity in excess of 5 megawatts as soon as 2030 and that some sites could hit almost 40 MW of charging capacity by 2045, “a level of power equivalent to that demanded by a major manufacturer.”

That’s a lot of juice.

But before EV fans celebrate by doing doughnuts on the lawn, the question arises: where will that electricity come from? The August disclosure label from National Grid lists the sources for power generation in Massachusetts. The largest contributor was natural gas (35.2%), followed by nuclear power (21.5%). Solar came in a distant third at 11.9% and wind at 7%. Coal, oil, trash and other sources had a smaller presence.

So going forward, will we be using more natural gas to generate the electricity to charge our electric vehicles, to make us less reliant on gas? Or is there a massive injection of funding to make solar and wind  do the heavy lifting in our future?

How much will that cost? And who, one wonders, will be footing the bill?







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