Can Californians charge electric cars during the summer heat?

As Californians grapple with the growing effects of climate change, few things have become more dangerous than summer heat waves.

This year, the scorching heat came early on, prompting the first lightning protection advice of the summer on June 17 and speculation on social media how the heat might affect electric car owners.

“California literally tells everyone not to charge their electric cars due to lack of electricity,” read a June 18 post on Facebook, which was shared more than 46,000 times.

Another posted on June 21 read, “So California tells everyone to stop charging electric cars due to a lack of electricity… can’t do this shit.”

Good news for electric car owners – the rumors are missing a lot of context and are not entirely true.

But the posts quickly spread online and migrated from Facebook to other platforms, including Twitter.

They also discussed whether California has the resources to continue moving towards electric vehicles in pursuit of a greener future.

“California can’t provide enough electricity for their homes and businesses, yet they are mandating everyone to drive more electric cars,” read a post on Facebook. “I am constantly amazed at how stupid the Left can be.”

Facebook flagged the post on its News Feed as part of its efforts to combat false news and misinformation, so we decided to investigate. (Read more about PolitiFact California’s partnership with Facebook.)


The California Independent System Operator, or CAISO, is a non-profit organization tasked with operating and managing most of California’s power grid. It regularly issues lightning conservation advisories when the grid is facing challenging conditions, such as intense heat or wildfires.

The advice, known as Flex Alert, encourages Californians to shift their energy use to certain times of the day when the power grid is less stressed.

“Flex alert is not a lack of power,” said Gil Tal, director of the Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center in the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. “It’s a way to prevent outages. We don’t like being told not to use electricity, but it’s a better situation than sitting in the dark if the grid is collapsing.”

Typically, alerts ask that residents conserve electricity during the evening hours, when people are still awake and using electricity, but some energy sources, such as solar power, are not available.

“On a good day, solar could make up half of the generation in California,” said Severin Borenstein, a professor of business administration and public policy at UC Berkeley and director of the Energy Institute at the university’s Haas School of Business. “And so when we start to lose it, we need other things. One of the problems that comes with extremely hot days, when the demand is so high, we don’t have enough other resources to keep that balance.” system.

Announcing the June 17 Flex Alert, CAISO encouraged people to voluntarily cut down on electricity usage from 5 pm to 10 pm. Appliances and charging electric vehicles, before the warning to be “as comfortable as possible” during evening hours.

The advisory never explicitly told Californians not to charge electric vehicles—just to shift their charging schedules, if possible, into the evening to accommodate limited resources.

“It’s completely voluntary,” Borenstein said. “Generally there are no financial incentives either. This is just a plea and it applies to electric vehicles as well.”

How do electric cars charge

According to the California Energy Commission, there are just 630,000 electric cars on the road in the Golden State today. Although they come in many shapes, sizes and models, they all work the same way – drive, park, and plug in as needed.

How long and how often electric cars need to be charged depends on a number of factors, including how far the car has traveled, what the car’s top range is and what type of outlet it is connected to.

Borenstein said it can take hours to fully charge a vehicle.

“If you’re plugging in a regular old house 110-[volt] Outlet, it can take all night to refill a battery that lasts 100 miles during the day.” “Most homes have at least 220-[volt] outlet and charge almost twice as fast.”

But most daily commutes won’t completely drain an electric car’s battery. Data from the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration shows that residents of the San Francisco Bay Area traveled an average of about 20.7 miles per day in 2019. In Los Angeles, this number was 22.5 miles each day and in Sacramento, it was 22.3 miles. .

That’s why most modern electric cars don’t need to be charged on a daily basis, Tal said.

Many are plugged in every couple of days and equipped with timers so owners can set their own charge. While electric car drivers may initially avoid power outages and protection advice, Tal said these incidents are usually “no problem”.

“Flex alerts last a few hours and there are very few electric car drivers who have to charge their cars in these specific few hours,” Tal said. “Most drivers will be able to delay a few hours or a few days if needed today and in the future.”

Does California Have the Power to Go Green?

As of 2019, renewable sources produced more than 30% of California’s electricity. In 2015, the state promised to increase that number to 50% by 2030, and Governor Gavin Newsom last year issued an executive order requiring all new cars sold in California to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2035.

“California is really on the cutting edge of integrating wind and solar into generation,” Borenstein said. “California has much greater access to electric vehicles than any other state, and so we are at the cutting edge there as well. This gives us the opportunity to seamlessly integrate electric vehicles with renewable energy.”

If everyone drove an electric vehicle, Tal said Californians would “double” the use of electricity in their homes. But change is unlikely to come quickly, and the current grid is capable of supporting short-term growth in electric cars.

“We can have millions of electric cars on today’s grid without any problems,” Tal said. “We have less than a million today and we can go up to three, four, five million without any serious upgrades.”

In the long run, California’s power grid will need to produce and store more electricity to reliably transition to a fully electrified fleet. But Tal said the process should be smooth if the changes happen “simultaneously.”

Borenstein said this is not the first time the power grid has needed to accommodate emerging technology, comparing the shift to electric cars to the popularization of air conditioning in the 1950s. Over the years, the grid has successfully increased capacity to accommodate energy demands.

Air conditioning units kick in at roughly the same time as outdoor temperatures increase during the day and decrease throughout the night, which posed an additional challenge to the 1950s electric grid. Borenstein said that adjusting to electric cars would be easier.

“We have to build capacity here too,” Borenstein said. “But we probably won’t have to build out as much capacity because not everyone has to charge at the same time.”

As California transitions to electric vehicles and renewable energy sources, Borenstein said market forces will drive charging at a time when energy is plentiful.

“I think that’s where we’re going,” he said. “We’re not going to make it illegal to charge your car at a particular time, but charging it is going to be cheaper when the grid is actually more abundant with electricity and more expensive when the grid is tight.”

our rule

The post on social media claimed that California told electric car owners not to “charge” their vehicles due to a lack of electricity.

The posts refer to a flex alert that was issued by the California Independent System Operator on June 17. The alert encouraged Californians to volunteer to save energy and charge their electric vehicles before 5 p.m. to reduce potential stress on the power grid during the first major heat wave.

CAISO officials never said that people cannot charge their vehicles. Rather, he said electric vehicle owners should change their charging schedules in the evening to accommodate limited energy sources.

In addition, experts say most electric vehicles require only a few hours of charging each night and are equipped with timers so owners can set the charging duration, making it easier for Californians to voluntarily follow flex alerts. it happens.

The Post also sparked debate over whether California’s grid will be able to accommodate efforts to move to electric vehicles in the coming years. But experts said the transition should be smooth as long as electric cars are coordinated with efforts to advance renewable energy sources and improve grid efficiencies.

The post completely misinterpreted the Flex Alert and sparked largely unfounded fears about California’s move to green energy. Therefore, we consider these claims to be false.

false – The statement is not correct.

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