As electric vehicle adoption continues to grow, what does this mean for the grid?

In July 2022, Bloomberg analysts reported that the U.S. has now reached the tipping point for mass adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).1 With 5% of new car sales powered solely by electricity, the nation has reached the magic number that signals a period when “technological preferences rapidly flip,” according to the report.

As more consumers embrace alternative energy sources — and average gas prices continue to hover above $4/gallon — market acceleration of EV may have grid operators wishing they could tap the brakes on this growth.

Supraharmonics: The hidden speed bump of power reliability

EV sales are on track to double every couple of years, which means 40 million EVs could be traveling U.S. roads by 2030.2 Every one of those vehicles represents a need for charging infrastructure, whether through a charger plugged into a standard household outlet or through a fast-charging EV station. With this in mind, the Biden Administration has fast-tracked a program to install 500,000 charging stations throughout the U.S. over the next 8 years.3

But here’s the rub: these charging technologies have been found to generate high frequency emissions in the “supraharmonic” range, between 2 kHz and 150 kHz.

Generally speaking, supraharmonic distortions cause a number of power quality issues ranging from overheated capacitors to inaccurate sensor readings to equipment malfunction or permanent damage. The power industry still has a lot to learn about this phenomenon — but studies specifically focused on EV reveal that concern is warranted. Findings include:

  • Unintended interruptions of charging — where either the vehicle disconnects from the charging process, and/or the battery fails to increase its charge, and
  • General concerns about disturbances and interference within the power grid

Regulatory rules add to the pressure

Driver experience isn’t the only challenge utilities face with EV infrastructure. Federally funded projects stipulate that charging stations be placed no less than 50 miles apart, near highways; outfitted with DC fast chargers; and with each charger maintaining a minimum 97% uptime.4

All of these requirements will result in higher loads of supraharmonics-emitting technologies running on the grid. And yet those very loads can compromise grid performance. It’s a Catch-22 for grid operators.

Power quality monitoring: More critical than ever for utilities

Electric utilities need enhanced visibility into the grid to understand how modern, energy-efficient technologies impact the distribution of reliable power. That may seem obvious — but until recently, monitoring tools could not detect and measure supraharmonic frequencies at medium voltage level.

The Powerside PQube® 3 power analyzer eliminates this blind spot. The PQube® 3 is uniquely capable of monitoring, measuring and recording these high frequency 2 kHz-150 kHz emissions on medium voltage lines. Grid operators now have real-time visibility into a multitude of details, and the power to proactively act before a disturbance leads to disruption. For example:

  • Improve grid visibility and identify fault location faster
  • Identify power grid dynamics
  • Monitor and evaluate power quality issues
  • Prevent early equipment failure
  • Mitigate grid disruptions caused by DERs
  • Capture vital data for regulatory reporting

In addition, operators will likely want to lean on the PQube® 3 to help inform and prioritize future infrastructure upgrades to meet goals for energy efficiency.

Learn more about PQube® 3 monitoring

Keep the momentum going on EV adoption. Get an overview of the features and reporting capabilities offered by the PQube® 3 power analyzer. Visit our PQube® 3 web page, or better yet, contact us for a demo.

  1. Bloomberg, US Crosses the Electric-Car Tipping Point for Mass Adoption, July 9, 2022
  2. USA Today, “Registrations for electric vehicles soar, signaling increasing mainstream acceptance,” May 16, 2022
  3. The White House, FACT SHEET: The Biden-⁠Harris Electric Vehicle Charging Action Plan, December 13, 2021
  4. Federal Register, National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, June 22, 2022