How many electric cars can the grid take? Depends on your neighborhood

Enlarge / Signage for an electric car charging booth is displayed at Federation Square car park in Melbourne, Australia, on Friday, April 28, 2017. (credit: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

We all know what it's like to ask for more electricity than a system can give. Throw some soup in the microwave, put a poptart in the toaster, plug in your hair straightener, and pop! All of a sudden, you're in the dark, searching for the switchbox to reset the blown fuse.

Though that problem takes place on a small scale, utilities work hard to make sure surges in demand don't affect normal grid operations on a large scale. And as more and more electric cars get plugged in to residential garage systems, some experts have wondered whether the various grids that serve our homes can handle the extra demand for energy.

Matteo Muratori, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, tried to take a granular look at how electric vehicle (EV) market share can affect grid operations. He found that when certain communities adopt electric vehicles more quickly than others and drivers charge their vehicles in an uncoordinated manner, EV adoption can strain certain areas of the grid, even if aggregate market share is low.

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