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How Electric Vehicles Can Help California’s Grid

By MPCO Staff

As California's lead state agency for zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) infrastructure and energy forecasting, the California Energy Commission (CEC) is working to support grid-friendly growth to manage the need for additional power for ZEVs and more.

So, how can ZEVs help the electric grid? Buckle up as we break down some frequently asked questions.

First Stop: California's ZEV Record

California is the national leader for zero-emission vehicle sales – with one in every four new car buyers now choosing a zero-emission option and 1.6 million sold, including battery-electric (BEVs or EVs), hydrogen, and plug-in hybrids.

To power EVs, more than 87,000 public and shared private chargers are installed throughout the state, in addition to personal home chargers not open to the public. Charging time varies from several hours using a Level 2 charger to 30 minutes with a Level 3 fast charger.

The Governor's historic $52 billion California Climate Commitment includes $10 billion for ZEVs. Last December, the CEC adopted a $2.9 billion plan detailing the budget-dollar investments in EV charging and hydrogen refueling. The plan is designed to help California meet its 2025 infrastructure goals and support the phase-out of the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.

Second Stop: Powering Electric Vehicles

The CEC leads energy forecasting for the state, including planning for the growth of EV charging and increasing demand for electricity from air-conditioning use as temperatures increase from climate change. Data show that EV charging today accounts for less than 1% of electricity demand during peak hours at the end of the day when power use spikes. In 2030, demand is expected to grow to just 5% during the same peak period.

Why so low when sales are so high? EV owners tend to charge outside peak hours when electricity is cheapest, typically overnight or midday, depending on the driver's electricity rate. By responding to price signals through software and automation, consumers save more money on their fuel costs, get the charging they need for their cars and help the grid.

Third Stop: Electric Vehicles as a Power Source

In the future, EVs equipped with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology will be able to send power back to the grid during peak demand periods — a benefit for all Californians on the road to a 100% clean energy future. V2G EVs have the potential to play a part in the state's clean energy future by using excess power from solar and wind farms to charge during the day for use in the evening when demand is high. These vehicles can also act as on-site generators, providing backup power for homes for up to three days or more.

The state's energy agencies are taking steps to accelerate V2G and other innovative tools for integrating vehicles with the grid. These steps include policies and technologies to ensure components work together while managing costs to consumers.

Last Stop: Take Part in the Zero-Emission Transition

There has never been a better time to go electric, with state rebates and federal tax credits at an all-time high. Every Californian can benefit, and low-income residents are eligible to receive thousands of dollars in combined state grants and rebates to help purchase a ZEV. Financial assistance is also available to purchase and install EV charging infrastructure.

To explore available models and incentive programs, visit

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