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Electric cars may up demand for power, but renewables are poised to benefit

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Jeff Tyson

Auto giant General Motors announced Monday it is taking a deep dive into the electric vehicle market — unveiling two new electric models in 2018 and 18 more by 2023. This boost in the number of electric cars will increase demand for power, but signals a bright future for renewable forms of energy like wind and solar, according to a Cornell University expert.

Eilyan Bitar

David Croll Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow

Eilyan Bitar, a leading researcher in modern power systems and an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University, says electric vehicles and renewable energy can develop a “symbiotic relationship.”

Bitar says: 

“Naturally, the increased penetration of electric vehicles will increase the overall demand for electricity, as the majority of electric vehicles coming online will need to plug into the grid in order to charge. However, an important characteristic of most electric vehicles is that their demand for electricity is, to a large extent, flexible in time.

“For example, when charging an electric vehicle overnight or at the workplace, your typical electric vehicle owner will not necessarily require that her vehicle be charged instantaneously, but rather within a reasonable window of time that respects her expected departure time. Accordingly, electric utilities could offer monetary incentives to electric vehicle owners who are willing to adapt their charging patterns in time.

“This flexibility could, in turn, be harnessed to balance the intermittent power generated by renewable energy resources, like wind and solar. Such coordination would give rise to a symbiotic relationship, where the flexibility of electric vehicles is used to smooth the intermittency of renewables, and renewables directly supply clean renewable power to electric vehicles.”

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