California Electric Vehicle Power Sources – Just the Facts
There is a lot of misinformation about California’s ability to cleanly power its electric vehicles using the current grid.
Some EV enthusiasts swear that the California grid is more than capable of powering their vehicles using mostly green (renewable) energy. Others say EV owners are using dirty energy to power their clean cars. There is misleading propaganda on both sides, and I wanted to present the facts without editorializing.
Not to mention the impact of the manufacture of the batteries, which can be dirty (especially depending on the vehicle), where does the power come from? I chose to use a state as an example. Since California leads the country in renewable energy and has several initiatives to use greener energy, I focused on this state.
Excluding state energy.
California’s Load Service Entities (LSEs) reported 8,739 GWh of energy imported from out-of-state hydroelectric facilities in 2018, bringing the state’s total hydroelectric energy to 35,083 GWh¬, or approximately 12% of California’s energy mix.
The table below is from energy.ca.gov from a 2018 study. It shows where power comes from and how much it contributes.
Production in the State (GWh)
Generation in the State
|Northwest Imports (GWh)||Southwest imports (GWh)||California energy mix (GWh)||California Power Blend|
|Large hydroelectric plant||22,096||11.34%||7,418||985||30,499||10.68%|
|Other (petroleum coke/waste heat)||430||0.22%||0||9||439||0.15%|
|Small hydroelectric plant||4,248||2.18%||334||1||4,583||1.61%|
|Unspecified energy sources||N / A||N / A||17,576||12,519||30,095||10.54%|
Some of these numbers have increased: in 2021, wind power generated in California was 15,173 gigawatt hours (GWh), or 7.8% of the California state’s electricity. Wind power plants producing in California for at least part of the year had a total capacity of 6,281 megawatts.
By the way: the last coal-fired power plant in California is the 63 MW Argus Cogen plant. California pushed for natural gas in 2014, and most coal fields now burn greener natural gas. Natural gas is responsible for about a third of California’s power.
Off-grid or partially off-grid (domestic solar) solar energy.
California also leads the nation in the number of homes with solar panels, totaling more than 230,000. That total is expected to climb to a quarter of a million by 2024 or sooner. Nationally, demand for solar power has jumped to the point that demand is outstripping supply.
California, along with many other states, is still experiencing power outages. This happened long before electric vehicles gained popularity. They will have to increase the network as the populations increase, which is obvious. What remains to be seen is the true effect of electric vehicles, as they all need to be powered somewhere.
These are the facts as stated, and I hope they help dispel any misconceptions.