(The Epoch Times)—Tesla’s biggest EV Supercharger station in the United States uses diesel power to charge vehicles, according to an energy expert who confirmed that these types of diesel-powered stations are present elsewhere as well.
During an Oct. 6 interview with EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program, energy-related public policy analyst David Blackmon was asked whether Tesla’s Harris Ranch EV charging station in Coalinga, California, runs on diesel power.
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“Yeah, in part,” Mr. Blackmon replied. “The San Francisco Chronicle did an exposé on it. They found that this charging station has 98 high-speed Tesla chargers. There’s a diesel-generating plant located behind the Shell station that’s adjacent to the chargers. And it’s providing power.
“People think, I guess they think the power comes from just the sky or something,” he said. “But something has to generate the electricity that enables those chargers to recharge those batteries. And Tesla operates this charging station and decided they needed that diesel generating plant, and they strategically located it behind the Shell station.”
Mr. Blackmon spent 40 years in the oil and gas industry. A senior contributor to Forbes magazine, he writes and comments frequently on energy issues.
Harris Ranch is one of Tesla’s first Supercharger stations. On its website, the Harris Ranch Resort describes the facility as “the world’s largest Tesla Supercharger station.”
When asked whether diesel-powered EV charging stations are common, Mr. Blackmon said that he had personally found one such station at a supermarket in Houston five or six years ago. A grocery store manager told him a diesel generator powered the charger.
“I went [and] looked at it, he took me out there to see it … Every time a car pulled up to recharge, that diesel generator came on and provided the power for it.”
Mr. Blackmon pointed out that the EV industry is going through “a lot of growing pains” and that proper infrastructure to support electric vehicles “just is not there.”
“Tesla’s way out in front of all these other carmakers in the EV space here in the United States, and is doing whatever it needs to do to ensure electricity goes to these chargers so that the drivers in California—it’s the biggest market for Tesla—and their automobiles, they want to make sure they can charge their cars as they’re driving through the Central Valley. And yeah, the diesel generators are doing the job.”
News outlet SFGate, which used to be part of the San Francisco Chronicle, did a story on the diesel-powered Harris Ranch EV charging station last month.
In 2021, Tesla claimed that all its Superchargers would be 100 percent powered by renewable energy by the end of that year. When the outlet contacted Tesla to comment on the Harris Ranch Supercharger’s use of diesel, the company didn’t respond.
At the Harris Ranch Resort, SFGate tried unsuccessfully to use the TezLab app, a free app that can track energy sources used at Tesla Superchargers. A TezLab spokesperson later told the outlet that the energy being used at Harris Ranch consists of a “mix of sources that are attached to the grid.”
“Nearly all Superchargers, homes, businesses, etc., in California are using those same sources of energy, unless they have their own dedicated solar or theoretical energy contracts.”
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“Because of how grids work, it’s not really feasible to look at one charger and say, ‘Oh, I’d rather drive another 5 minutes to this one that uses a cleaner source of energy’ since they are very likely on the same grid.”
US Power Grid Challenge
In the interview, Mr. Blackmon was asked whether the power grid would be able to handle the electricity demand coming from increased EV use. During heat waves, California power officials issue alerts asking EV owners not to charge their vehicles in a bid to conserve power.
The power grid issue is a “huge problem,” he said. “And it’s much bigger than people know because right now, we have a crisis in [the] supply of electric transformers for our power grid.”
“Transformers are an integral part of every electricity project in America—around the world, really—and they’re in very short supply. It’s taking up to four years to source new supplies of these transformers. Inventories are very low.”
“And, you know, you can’t expand the grid if you don’t have the equipment to do it with. The federal government is not doing anything to solve this problem,” he said.
In March, IEEE Spectrum, a publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, published a report on EV transition, highlighting the transformer crisis in the context of the U.S. power grid.
Professor Deepak Divan, director of the Center for Distributed Energy at Georgia Tech, estimated that multiple L2 chargers on a single distribution transformer can cut its life from 30–40 years to just three years, according to the report. L2 chargers provide faster charging than the regular L1 chargers supplied to EV buyers at the time of purchase.
Upgrading transformers can be a headache for electric utilities. Costs of transformers have jumped to as much as $20,000 each, from $3,000 to $4,000. As larger transformers may be required to support EVs, many of the 180 million power poles in America would also have to be replaced, pushing up the cost further, the report said.
Some experts argue that the threat to transformers can be minimized by encouraging EV owners to charge during off-peak hours when there is less load on the electric grid. However, the report notes that off-peak charging “may not fully solve” the peak-load problem once EVs become widespread.
“Transformers are passively cooled devices” that are designed to be cooled at night, Mr. Divan said. “When you change the [power] consumption profile by adding several EVs using L2 chargers at night, that transformer is running hot.”
The risk that uncoordinated overnight charging may end up resulting in transformer failure is a cause for concern, especially during summer heat waves.
Utility firms are also staring at high costs to enable EV adoption.
“The rising number of EVs will test the local grid’s reliability at many of the 3,000 electric-distribution utilities in the United States, which themselves own more than 5.5 million miles of power lines. It is estimated that these utilities need $1 trillion in upgrades by 2035,” the report stated.
In addition, to achieve the desired level of reduction in greenhouse gases, fossil fuel energy will need to be replaced by renewable energy, which will add to the cost.
Improvements and replacements to the grid’s 8,000 power-generation units and 600,000 circuit miles of AC transmission lines, as well as 70,000 substations to support increased renewable energy and battery storage, are estimated to cost more than $2.5 trillion by 2035, it said.
In the interview, Mr. Blackmon also pointed to challenges that EV charging will face during disasters such as hurricanes when the power supply is disrupted.
“We’ve been very fortunate in this hurricane season, that we haven’t had a major storm like Hurricane Harvey—[which] comes through and shuts off power across a wide geographical area—this year, and hopefully, we’ll get through this season without that happening.”
“Because honestly, in some areas of the country, it might even be impossible to restore power within months if it gets knocked out, because of this transformer issue.”