Panelists at a Ford-sponsored City of Tomorrow conference say electric vehicles could ease climate change-induced grid strain, but many factors could hamper large shifts away from fossil fuels.
Ford’s F150 Lightning electric vehicle has the ability to power homes and other businesses, Ford GM of battery electric vehicles Darren Palmer said at a Ford-sponsored City of Tomorrow summit on electrification. But, other panelists pointed out, electrification includes a number of infrastructure dilemmas that may make its widespread rollout slower than Ford, and EV proponents, may like.
The panel, titled “It Takes a Village: The Price and Promise of Electrification,” covered a number of electrified transportation topics, including issues of equity tied to electrifying public transport and privately owned vehicles. Along with discussion of making the future of electric transportation available to all, the panel also hit on some timely headlines, namely the heat wave in the Pacific Northwest and Texas’ continued energy grid strain.
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Speaking specifically about the Ford F150 Lightning EV, Palmer said that Ford wanted to make electric vehicles more useful than their gasoline-powered predecessors by adding features like bidirectional charging that enable the 2022 F150 Lightning to power a home for up to 10 days without air conditioning or three days with AC being used in the home.
Batteries in the F-150 Lightning are standardized, Palmer said, which means future Ford electric vehicles should have the same capabilities. “The question was how can we make EVs more useful to the customers and infrastructures. They’re a huge power source, “Palmer said.
The vehicle-to-grid technology in the F-150 and future Ford EVs is cloud controlled, which Palmer said allows Ford to ease pressure on electrical grids and even remove entire buildings from the grid during emergencies. Palmer said that in the future Ford hopes it can also trigger vehicle charging to only be available at night, when less energy is being used, to supplement power to buildings with Ford bidirectional chargers and to be able to use F-150s and other compatible vehicles to power cities in emergency situations.
Promises of reduced grid strain are ideal for places like Texas, where the state-controlled ERCOT power grid has been facing reliability criticisms due to extreme weather this past winter and a reported lack of reserves heading into heavily taxing summer months. The likelihood of Ford’s EVs relieving strain on the grid is likely a ways off though, said panelist Karina Ricks, director of the Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure.
There are a lot of considerations when thinking about a future transit industry that’s all-electric, Ricks said. “EVs are heavy, and can reduce the lifespan of a road from decades to only seven to eight years, so more road investment will be necessary. A primary source of funding for road repair and construction comes from the gas tax, which would be reduced with more electric vehicles on the road,” Ricks said.
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Additionally, the heavier weight of EVs makes them more dangerous in accidents, both for other vehicles and pedestrians, and their presence won’t do anything to ease congestion that plagues urban areas. “Electrification runs like a thread through all of these planned areas,” said moderator Allie Kelly, executive director at electrification nonprofit The Ray. “It’s all-hands-on-deck,” Kelly said, in which every aspect of the infrastructure and economic web connected to transportation in the U.S. will need to be considered in order for electrification to be successful.