California’s Looming ‘Green New Car Wreck’

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Governor Newsom announces major climate initiative, September 23, 2020. (Screenshot via California Gavin Newsom)

On September 23, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that will ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars in the Golden State by 2035. Ignoring the hard lessons of this past summer, when California’s solar- and wind-reliant electric grid underwent rolling blackouts, Newsom now adds a huge new burden to the grid in the form of electric vehicle charging. If California officials follow through and enforce Newsom’s order, the result will be a green new car version of a train wreck.

Let’s run some numbers. According to Statista, there are more than 15 million vehicles registered in California. Per the U.S. Department of Energy, there are only 256,000 electric vehicles registered in the state—just 1.7 percent of all vehicles.

Using the Tesla Model3 as a baseline for an electric car, you’ll need to use about 50 (kilowatts) kW of power to charge a standard range Model 3 battery to full capacity. It will take about eight hours to fully charge it at home using the standard Tesla NEMA 14-50 charger.

Now, let’s assume that by 2040, five years after the mandate takes effect, California manages to increase the number of electric vehicles to 25 percent of the total vehicles in the state. If each vehicle needs an average of 50 kilowatts for a full charge, then the total charging power required daily would be 3,750,000 x 50 kilowatts, which equals 187,500,000 kilowatts. Converting that to megawatts for electric grid-scale comparison, that becomes 187,500 megawatts daily.

In 2020, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reported a total of 28,741 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity installed in California, and forecast this to increase to 59,400 MW by 2040.

Doing simple math, with just 25 percent of California’s vehicles being electric by 2040, needing 187,500 megawatts daily just to charge electric cars, the forecast for solar-power deployment of 59,400 MW by 2040 doesn’t even come close to meeting the demand. In fact, it falls short by 128,100 megawatts. And that’s assuming solar operates at full capacity, which it typically doesn’t.

But there’s a much bigger problem. Even a grade-schooler can figure out that solar energy doesn’t work at night, when most electric vehicles will be charging. So, where does Newsom think all this extra electric power is going to come from?

The wind? Wind power lags even further behind solar power. According to energy.gov, as of 2019, California had installed just 5,942 megawatts of wind power generating capacity. This is because you need large amounts of land for wind farms, and not every place is suitable for high-return wind power.

To meet the charging demand of just 25 percent of all vehicles in California being electric, while maintaining the state mandate requiring all the state’s electricity to come from carbon-free resources by 2045, California would have to blanket the entire state with solar and wind farms. It’s an impossible scenario. And the problem of intermittent power and rolling blackouts would become much worse.

And it isn’t just me saying this. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agrees. In a letter sent by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to Gavin Newsom on September 28, Wheeler wrote:

“[It] begs the question of how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today.

“The truth is that if the state were driving 100 percent electric vehicles today, the state would be dealing with even worse power shortages than the ones that have already caused a series of otherwise preventable environmental and public health consequences.”

California’s green new car wreck looms large on the horizon. Worse, can you imagine electric car owners’ nightmares when California power companies shut off the power for safety reasons during fire season? Try evacuating in your electric car when it has a dead battery.

Gavin Newsom’s “no more gasoline cars sold by 2035” edict isn’t practical, sustainable, or sensible. But isn’t that what we’ve come to expect with any and all of these Green New Deal-lite schemes?

Anthony Watts ([email protected]) is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. He is also an owner of an electric vehicle in California.



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