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California Bill Would Turn EVs Into ‘Mini Power Plants on Wheels’ to Supply to Grid, Households

California Bill Would Turn EVs Into ‘Mini Power Plants on Wheels’ to Supply to Grid, Households

An electric car charges at a mall parking lot in Corte Madera, Calif., on June 27, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Sophie Li

Sophie Li

8/23/2023

Updated: 8/23/2023

A proposed California bill would require all new electric vehicles (EVs) sold in California after 2030 to be “bi-directional,” meaning they would not only contribute power to vehicles but would also provide energy to the grid and to households.
Senate Bill 233, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), was established, she said, in response to “relieve strain on the state’s electrical grid” and to help meet electricity demand amid California’s ambitious goal of being 100 percent carbon neutral by 2045.
“The battery capacity in today’s electric vehicles gives them the potential to be mini power plants on wheels. That’s crucial as California continues to face unprecedented impacts from climate change, including record heat waves, wildfires, and destructive storms that can lead to power outages,” Ms. Skinner said in a statement, after the bill was introduced in the Senate in May.
The bill has passed the Senate and is now scheduled to be heard in the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee Aug. 24.
According to an analysis of the bill, EVs made up 20 percent of California’s new vehicle sales in 2022—nearly a 200 percent increase from five years ago—and were 40 percent of EV sales nationwide.
The cost of EV can vary dramatically, from less than $30,000 to over $100,000, but a typical one-way EV charger can be pretty wallet-friendly costing as low as $1,000.
However, a typical bi-directional charger, which can send power between the EV and the household, costs around $4,000 on average and can go up to nearly $10,000 for faster-charging and luxury models.
A station for charging electric vehicles in Irvine, Calif., on March 25, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A station for charging electric vehicles in Irvine, Calif., on March 25, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Currently, there are only two EV models, including the Nissan Leaf and Ford F-150 Lightning, offering bi-directional charging, according to the website cars.com. Several other manufacturers are looking to equip their newer models with such technology.
“Bidirectional charging will put power in the hands of Californians, enabling EV owners to power their homes and the electric grid at the same time,” Ms. Skinner said in a statement.
However, technology for transferring electricity from EVs back to the grid is much more complicated and does not currently exist for commercial use, according to the bill’s analysis conducted by legislative staff.
The bill does not say how that problem will be solved, pointing out that the grid is currently designed to allow electricity to flow one-way only, and adding the bi-directional technology could mean major changes to the infrastructure, according to the bill’s analysis.
Some also question California’s electric grid’s reliability.
According to a 2022 study by the University of California–Berkeley, utility companies’ current speed in upgrading the grid could potentially pose a bottleneck to the state’s EV adoption plans due to increasing demand for electricity.
The study also estimates that the cost for such upgrades could be at least $1 billion and potentially more than $10 billion for utility companies.
A driver fills her car with gas amid record-high fuel prices, in Irvine, Calif., on Feb. 23, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A driver fills her car with gas amid record-high fuel prices, in Irvine, Calif., on Feb. 23, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Other critics of the bill say it is not feasible for the consumer.
Ronald Stein, an energy consultant and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author, said that many wouldn’t be able to afford an EV due to the high cost of living and inflation, and the bi-directional charging feature could make such even less affordable.
Additionally, though the bill does not mandate consumers switch to driving EVs, he said, the transition the state is aiming for, including shutting down oil drilling to push for clean energy would burden those who stay with gas vehicles due to the high cost of importing fuel from foreign countries.
“It’s going to be a tough road for the current population in the current economy and the current earnings of people,” he said in a recent interview with NTD Television, a sister outlet to The Epoch Times, owned by The Epoch Media Group.
Additionally, Mr. Stein said, in order to make the equipment and facilities to build an all-electric economy, fossil fuels are needed.
“[The government] wants to get rid of fossil fuels. But when you think about it, everything that needs electricity is made with fossil fuels,” he said.
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Sophie Li

Sophie Li

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Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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