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Will the Tesla Model 3 Disrupt the Utility Grid ?

I recently sat down with a Tesla owner to see how their experience has been and if they have noticed any impact to their electricity bill since adding the fast charging wall connector and an additional 100 amp circuit.

Tesla Model S Charging

As I pulled up I immediately laid eyes on this shiny, perfectly maintained champagne colored Tesla Model S. (The Model 3 had not be released at the time of this interview)  Inside and out, this car was showroom level.  It dawned on me at the time, that I had never seen a dirty Tesla.  It could be the demographic or possibly the personality of Tesla owners that they all like to keep their toys shiny and clean.

 

Tesla Wall Connector Charger

Sorry, I shouldn’t call a Tesla a toy.  It is far from a toy, it is an incredible high performance machine that could very well disrupt the energy value chain and I’m all in on this technology and while I’m not an active participant (yet) however, I’ll continue to keep an ear to the ground on this developing technology.

My main objective was to find out if there was a significant impact to a consumers power bill, after all, these superchargers are like adding four new air conditioning units to your home.  As you can see the Tesla Wall Connector is drawing 72 amps on a 240 volt circuit.  That is a lot of power pumping in to charge the battery.

Supercharger Mobile App

The charge rate is impressive too, at about 50 miles per hour.  According to this Tesla owner, he is not really noticed any significant increase in power consumption and with his daily commute and other recreational driving, he normally only needs to charge it once per week.  However, looking at his power usage analytics from his power distribution company, it is very apparent which evenings the Tesla is on charge.  The hourly usage chart provided by the power company highlights the spike on those days, however over a month the extra power usage is barely noticeable.

I also asked if there were any behavior changes, such as charging on specific days or nights.  The Tesla owner seemed to let the car tell him when to charge it and currently we do not have time based rates in NC which would certainly have an impact on charge scheduling.  My guess is that a common evening for charging would be Sunday during normal work weeks and possibly again mid-week depending on the length of the commute.

Currently, utilities are not seeing any major impact to their systems due to electric vehicle charging, however that could change soon.  With the release of the Model 3, there are new buyer demographics targeted and more free charging stations available.  Tesla is also targeting regional charging areas that lie between major metro areas, such as Las Vegas and Los Angeles.  The current Tesla Model 3 that is available to the public is the extended range version which is still at a price point near the higher end, Model S.  When the <$40,000 version of the Model 3 is released, this could move the needle enough for utility planners to start looking more closely at their system capacity, in particular at night when charging is more likely to occur.  Time will certainly tell and some are predicting an impact similar to the introduction of central air conditioning on the power industry.  There will definitely be an impact, however diversity will mitigate much of the issues until we see significant saturation on circuits.

 

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