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Seattle Prepares for EV Influx

image credit: ID 13194125 © Dhilde |

Yet another study has been released warning of the dangers electric vehicles pose to our grids. A joint effort of the Rocky Mountain Institute and Seattle City Light, the “Seattle City Light Transportation Electrification Strategy” concludes that neither Seattle nor most other big cities are prepared for the oncoming serge in EV use. The report isn’t all doom and gloom, however. The authors stress the importance of utility-legislator collaboration when it comes to EV adoption as a means to hit carbon cutting goals. 

Seattle, of course, has taken bigger steps towards electrification than most American cities. The city intends to reach 30% EV adoption and a fossil fuel-free municipal fleet by the end of the next decade, and King County Metro is aiming to have its entire bus fleet electric by 2040. To absorb the projected EV’s, Seattle needs a clear layout for charging stations and a plan on how to finance the whole thing. 

Outfitting a city, or entire region, with a comprehensive system of charging stations is difficult, however. As I discussed a few weeks ago, right now the really high-powered stations simply aren’t profitable due to demand charges. So, we have a classic chicken-egg problem: The public won’t buy electric cars until there are a lot of DCFC stations, but companies can’t make money off DCFC stations until there are a lot of electric cars. 

Utilities are currently on the hunt for solutions to this conundrum. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) proposed a subscription-like charging rate last year with the goal of spurring investment in stations and commercial fleets of e-vehicles. Xcel Energy put in place a demand limiter mechanism that caps billable kw quantity that’s used to figure out demand charges. 

Despite the challenges, I’m confident the EV revolution is indeed on the way, if it hasn’t already started. The next head scratcher will be finding new jobs for all the laid-off UAW members. 

Henry Craver's picture

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 18, 2019 10:06 pm GMT

The public won’t buy electric cars until there are a lot of DCFC stations, but companies can’t make money off DCFC stations until there are a lot of electric cars. 

The chicken and the egg, indeed. But when the advent of chickens would provide massive common good in decreased emissions and cleaner air, not to mention overall lifetime cost savings, it seems reasonable to hope the government will step in to push the egg in some way

Henry Craver's picture
Henry Craver on Sep 19, 2019 7:22 pm GMT


I'm with you. Unfortunatly, legislators in the U.S. are sometimes a little too relectant to admit market failures and correct for them. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 19, 2019 9:44 pm GMT

Not to mention the hesitance to do anything that has a price tag attached to it (while happily ignoring the implied/intrinsic price tag of inaction)

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