Clean Team

Impact of Plug-In Electric Vehicles on the Power Grid and Power Production 



SYST 798: Capstone Project

George Mason University
Class of Fall 2011


Despite continued development of public transportation systems and attempts at improving public accessibility, America continues to exist as a country reliant on transportation via personal vehicles. This reliance on independent transportation is particularly true for those living in suburban and rural parts of the country, where other modes of transportation may not exist or may not be convenient.

One of the most significant considerations of this wide use of personal vehicles is the reliance on petroleum based automotive fuels. In recent years, price increases and overall market volatility for petroleum based fuels has prompted much research and development in the area of alternative fuels and alternative methods for powering automobiles. While an increased use of hybrid electric vehicles has taken a small step away from reliance on petroleum based fuels by increasing efficiency and reducing the fuel used per mile traveled, ultimately these vehicles still rely on burning gasoline in order to function. As a next logical step, auto makers have focused on building vehicles able to be powered exclusively by stored electric power, sourced from the existing power grid.

Without question, replacing gasoline and other petroleum fuels with electric power will result in an increase demand for electric as seen by electricity producers and utility companies. The questions that still remain however, are how much of an increase in electric consumption can be expected, and in what time period will this impact be experienced. Ultimately the objective of this project is to quantify the impact which can be expected and propose methods for best handling the impact.

Specifically from the perspective of a utility provider, the impact of electric vehicles is of greatest concern when changes must be made in upgrading infrastructure, or when changes in usage times necessitate changes to rate structures. In many locations the existing electrical distribution infrastructure has been in place for many decades, and was originally designed and constructed to provide power to customers with much different demands. Because of the limitations of the current system, there is a genuine concern regarding what increase in load PEVs may result in, and over what period of time the full impact will be experienced. Although the widespread use of electric vehicles will most certainly not occur instantaneously, quantifying the eventual impact, and estimating a timeline for PEV use can be used to best prepare and plan for eventual system upgrades.


Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC).

  • Robert E. Bisson, PE (