The future of technology is here. Many years ago, we spoke about the future of technology at a PARMA conference. In particular, the conference focused on technology in the automobile industry, including self-driving vehicles, cars equipped with lane-assist safeguards, and the coming of the electric vehicle. Well, it seems that reality has hit home.
Governor Newsom recently announced that only electric vehicles would be sold in California by 2035, as I am sure you’re aware. This is an ambitious goal. But it seems it is one public agencies and private employers will need to prepare for. This brings up a ton of potential risk management issues.
Is your agency prepared for the arrival of the electric vehicle? Do you have a policy for handling issues arising from employees using them? Will your agency be using EVs for work purposes? How will you provide power for these vehicles, and where?
Watch our video here for more on this issue.
The Impact of the Electric Vehicle On The Power Grid
Last month, we saw a record-breaking heat wave hit Southern California over the Labor Day weekend. Newsom and the state of California asked residents to limit their power consumption from 4 to 9 p.m. during the heat crisis to prevent brownouts and ease the stress on the power grid. One of the standout requests was for owners of electric vehicles to not power their vehicles over the holiday weekend.
Currently, a little over 1 million zero-emission vehicles are registered in California, against some 17 million gas-powered cars. That is roughly 6 percent of the total vehicles in the state, a relatively small number. Despite that, there were enough of them that the state specifically asked EV owners to not plug in their cars and add their draw from the power grid. What does it look like if half of the state’s cars are EVs? Or all of them? Can our power grid handle that level of consumption without failing?
The Charging Station and Renewable Energy
The state currently has around 80,000 EV charging stations in public spaces. This falls hundreds of thousands of stations short of need by 2035. Estimates have that number at over a million such stations. And how will the state power these stations? California is attempting to move toward renewable energy options, but according to the California Energy Commission, over 50 percent of in-state electrical generation came from burning natural gas, a non-renewable source.
Renewable power sources such as solar, wind, and small hydro made up around 34 percent of California’s electrical generation in 2021. Even with that small amount, the power grid was severely stressed by extreme weather like the Labor Day heatwave, events that are on the rise due to climate change. Will California have the logistics—and the renewable power—to support upwards of 20 million zero-emission vehicles by 2035?
The Effect Of The Electric Vehicle On Public Agencies
I am throwing out these numbers because when you start to break them down, it means trouble for both public agencies and employers alike. Consider this scenario. A key employee must power their vehicle overnight. Because of instability in the power grid, the vehicle fails to fully charge by morning. What does this employee do? Use a pricey rideshare app like Uber or Lyft? Hop on inconvenient, time-intensive public transportation options? What if they live 30 miles away from the workplace? What will happen is they will call out, saying they can’t make it in. If that happens enough, will you have the staff in place to handle their job responsibilities? Is it a paid absence?
Now consider the current range of these vehicles, which is often around 150 to 250 miles per full charge. How long will your battery last if you’re commuting 50 miles one way every day, and you hit bumper-to-bumper traffic? Getting to work and then home on one charge becomes an open question. And what if your agency requires a good deal of driving in the course of the workday?
A standard charging station can take hours to charge up a car. Some stations are equipped for much faster charging, but even those can take as long as a half hour. Your EV policy would need to allow for the time to charge up EVs. Or you might need to construct charging stations at your sites as a service to your employees. That brings in a whole new list of concerns, such as the safety of the stations, the process of their use, and the money needed to build and maintain them. We may need to build whole new parking lots to handle the demand for electric vehicles.
Start Thinking About This
We have already touched upon a wide range of potential issues, yet we have barely scratched the surface. If you haven’t started thinking about your agency’s EV policy, you need to get on it.