In Soviet California, Electric Vehicle Charges Grid

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

You plug in your Tesla or other electric vehicle at night, and in the morning it’s fully charged, right? Maybe not, if troubled California energy giant PG&E gets its way.


Like me, you probably don’t own an electric vehicle, so imagine this instead. You go to the gas station to top off your tank for a long road trip. Unbeknownst to you, the gas station is actually a little low on gas because the manager forgot to call Shell HQ and order a tanker truck for a refill. When you stick the gas pump in the side of your car, the intelligent pump notices that you’ve actually got more than half a tank. So instead of pumping gas into your car, the gas station siphons a gallon out of it. Just to stabilize the station’s supply, don’t you know?

From each according to their tanks, I guess, to each according to their ability to take.

Terence West reported Wednesday for EnergyPortal that “PG&E, is exploring the potential of electric vehicles (EVs) to support the state’s fragile power grid.” What that means in practice is that CEO Patti Poppe wants a future where “EVs can feed excess power back to the grid during peak demand, helping to prevent blackouts.”

That electricity PG&E sold you yesterday? Yeah, they’re going to need some of that back because they didn’t produce enough today. Personally, I can’t help but think of PG&E’s proposal as “vampire charging.”

The concept, known as “vehicle-to-grid” charging, involves sending power from an EV’s battery back to the grid while the car is parked and plugged in. This technology is still in its early stages and faces significant costs, hindering widespread adoption. However, EVs could play a crucial role in ensuring grid stability during periods of high energy demand and solar power shortages.


In a way, PG&E’s plan does make a certain kind of sense. If you put Tesla solar panels on your roof, you also had a couple of those giant Powerwall battery backups put in, too — just enough juice to get you through a cloudy day or three. Poppe imagines PG&E as the solar panels and your car as the Powerwall she can tap during an emergency.

But there are problems, starting with the fact that pretty much every warm day in California risks tipping over into an “emergency.” The fact is that PG&E, ostensibly in the business of producing and selling energy, doesn’t produce enough to meet California’s existing needs and hasn’t for years.

Then there’s the matter of cost. “To encourage drivers to participate in bidirectional charging,” West conceded in his report, “utilities may need to offer incentives such as monetary compensation for the kilowatt hours contributed.”

You don’t say.

I’ve written many nasty things about Californians over the years, but I’ve never accused them of being so stupid that they’d willingly pay for the same electricity twice.

Electric vehicle owners sucked into PG&E’s vampire program would also have the lifespan of their EV batteries reduced. Those extra discharges/recharges add up and degrade the battery’s ability to store power.

Government Motors already has a pilot program in place to test the vampire tech, and Poppe wants them to expand it, pronto, to include all new GM vehicles.


Installing the vampire tech costs is “estimated at $3,700 per vehicle,” reports the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. Who’s going to pay for that? Consumers, if state Sen. Nancy Skinner’s bill becomes law, mandating that “two-way charging” be pre-installed in new electric vehicles starting in 2030. But let’s be clear about something: charging only goes one way. EV owners pay money to charge their cars, and then PG&E taps owners’ batteries to meet PG&E’s immediate needs. Maybe they’ll refund some of consumers’ money for the privilege.

I’d also add that two-way charging is going to boost the price of that near-mythical $26,000 electric vehicle to nearly $30,000.

Still, “Two-way charging” sounds so much nicer than “I vant to suck your charge.”

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