What impact will Electric Vehicles have on this debate? I see automated EVs as being a huge new electricity consumer that could work for either a half renewable half nuclear grid, *or* an all nuclear grid. Let’s explore the 100% nuclear grid first. We would build enough nuclear power plants to supply today’s daily peaks and run them at full power. Everyone will still come home and turn on their heating in winter or cooling in summer and cook dinner and watch TV all at the same time every evening. But there will be new consumers on the grid – all these Electric Vehicles. They can demand-shift their charging to slowly charge on off-peak overnight electricity, ready to drive the next morning. And they can super-charge during the daytime demand valleys, quickly charging in half an hour. Another *massive* trend will be robot-taxis. Basically, many futurists see robot-taxis being so cheap to hire (because they eliminate the human salary costs) that most people will simply stop buying cars. It’s the end of private motor vehicle ownership for the masses! (Although your tradespeople like plumbers will still buy their own plumbing van, it will drive them to their next job while they catch up on paperwork and on their phone calls.) I’ve collected a few references here.
Now, of course, this robot-taxi company will be run by your smart EV corporations of the future. (Any guesses as to brand names? Apple “iCab”? Tesla “Sexy-cab”? Sorry, he’s always making everything sound sexy… like “Space-seX” — come on, it’s just the way it’s said! Let alone “Model S”, “Model 3”, “Model X” cars… what does the combination S3X spell?” Then there’s his BFR, but enough said!)
Your future Toyota taxi-clubs and corporate car plans will provide a mix of mini-buses to collect people going in roughly the same direction at the same time to work every day. This will cut traffic enormously, maybe by half, maybe down to a quarter of what it is today. (More on why below.) Not only will you catch a vastly cheaper taxi, not only will that taxi mean you’ll never pay for parking at work or in town again, effectively destroying the city parking towers and car lots and returning a third of cities back to us for development, but it means vastly less traffic! Driverless buses are already being trialled around Sydney Olympic Park and are being proposed to solve rural transport problems. Why? They’re cheaper! No salary to pay.
What does all this mean for the grid’s demand profiles? You don’t worry about the best time to charge your car anymore — they do. They have a fleet of cars and vans and buses and stretched limo’s and whatever else you could require, just like you can order an Uber or UberX or whatever. You’ll just program into your app what time you want regular trips to work. Or you just pick up your phone and ask Siri or Google about your sudden trip out, and their algorithms will program the rest. (Even keeping a track of your travel patterns if you’re too lazy to program your daily trip to work. They’ll know roughly when you’re ready!) When it comes to electricity, they’ll have daily feedback on the fleet performance and will coordinate the best and cheapest times to charge around that. That might involve their vans both slow-charging overnight to be ready for the 5 am trips to the airport and then running the early peak hour crowd in to start at 7 am or 8 am. Then the iCab might even smuggle in a second trip for the 9am starters. Depending on the size of the iCab — whether 6, 8, or 10 passengers per trip — this could mean the one iCab takes anywhere from 10 to 20 cars off the road!
Then the iCab starts suburban cruising for various shopping and medical and other errands. Somewhere between morning and afternoon tea it will need a drink. What does that make you think of? Midday? The sun? This is where solar PV’s ‘cheaper to the grid’ claim could actually come true.
(RANT: If some light green all renewables idealist ever talks about how Solar PV is ‘cheaper to the grid’ without immediately qualifying it by discussing how expensive storage is — then call it out as greenwashing. They might not be intentionally lying, but it is an absolute lie that they have swallowed hook line and sinker! It’s greenwashing at its worst. Solar PV is only cheaper to the grid if we’re only going to use it for a little daytime power and have other means to get by during the 16 hours of the day it’s not really working. If they are raving about a 100% renewable grid because solar is cheaper than grid, then ask them how much they’ve costed the pumped hydro-storage at and the extra wind farms they’ll need to overbuild for when both the wind and sun are on strike?)
But if we’re talking about only using solar during the day as an extra electricity source for topping up cars, then maybe there can be a place for both nuclear and solar? We will also need to shift industrial heat from burning coal or natural gas for raw heat. Using clean electricity to do this while also charging all our transport and even splitting seawater to manufacture e-diesel will all require vastly more power. Some estimate it might triple electricity demand! Surely there is a way to coordinate our industries and robot-EV’s to charge on solar PV in a manner that won’t even impact on nuclear demand? Surely with a little demand shifting from the EV sector as to when they fast-charge during the day, we can work out a way to enjoy the best of both worlds?