As auto makers plan to put more electric vehicles on the road, a bigger EV charging infrastructure is taking shape. But that task ultimately will require some changes in how utility companies think about the electric grid.
The power grid already is struggling to meet U.S. energy needs, said Shuli Goodman, executive director of the San Francisco nonprofit technology consortium Linux Foundation Energy. "I think it's just a harbinger of the problems we're going to have in the future."
Consumers will need to become flexible about when and how they charge their EVs, communities likely will need to make greater use of solar power during daylight hours and auto makers will need to work more closely with utilities on community planning, Goodman recommended.
Linux Foundation Energy was created last year as a nonprofit initiative to bring open-source technology together to accelerate the decarbonization of the world's electricity sector.
"Eventually all cars will need to have some kind of embedded software" that manages charging availability, she said. "In the grid of the future, we will need to learn to do crowd balancing with automobiles in dense, urban environments in order to achieve the proper amount of flexibility."
Two years ago, a study by the California nonprofit educational organization Next 10 concluded that the state will need more than 2 million charge ports in public and work locations to meet 2017 EV sales forecasts by 2025. The reality will be an "infrastructure gap" for the EV industry, the study predicted.
But Goodman believes the real challenge will be getting utility companies to change their approach to investing in the grid.
"The issue is, how can utilities begin to move at the speed of technology and not at the speed of a big lumbering monopoly?
"Electric mobility is a certainty," Goodman said. "Developing the infrastructure should be a global act of innovation."