Californians were ordered not to charge their electric cars on Wednesday August 31, so as not to further burden an aging electricity network, energized by a dreaded heat wave. Last week, the state announced a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars from 2035. Temperatures reaching 44 degrees were expected in the suburbs of Los Angeles, when a heat dome overhangs the American West.
The sweltering weather is expected to put pressure on an already strained power grid, especially during the hottest hours, when air conditioning systems – essential in the United States – are running at full speed. “Consumers are asked to reduce their energy use between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., when the system is most energized, because demand remains high and there is less solar energy available”said the American Public Power Association, an organization that represents utilities.
The three main recommended measures: set the thermostat to 25°C or more, avoid using large appliances and charging electric vehicles, and turning off unnecessary lights, the organization said. Electricity is a sensitive subject for the State, whose infrastructure is dilapidated. Electricity companies regularly ask households to limit their consumption during certain hours, when the solar panels stop producing electricity while the demand remains high, due to the heat.
But the call not to charge your electric car has been widely mocked on social networks, at a time when the state is promoting this type of vehicle. “California just made electric vehicles mandatory AND asks residents not to charge them between 4 and 9 p.m.?”, Republican Senator Tom Cotton quipped on Twitter. On Thursday, Californian authorities announced that new cars sold should be “zero emission” pollutants from 2035 at the latest. The decision had been seen as a turning point for the electric car industry, with California representing an important automotive market and potentially influencing national or international standards.
The US Weather Service (NWS) has issued an “excessive heat” alert for the majority of California, as well as parts of Arizona and Nevada. “Dangerously hot temperatures are expected” until Sunday evening, warned the weather service, warning of the health risks posed by the heat wave. “Those without access to an adequate and reliable air conditioning system and a source of hydration are most at risk, but a large part of the population is likely to suffer the effects.” The night will bring little respite, with temperatures not dropping below 26°C in many places. In southern California, heat waves are not unusual in September, but temperatures above 37°C are considered very hot, even for an area known for its near-permanent sunshine.
This heat wave comes as large swathes of the south-west of the country have recently been hit by thunderstorms of rare intensity and torrential rains. The desert Death Valley was inundated, and one person died after being swept away by a flood Friday in Utah’s Zion National Park, famous for its red rock cliffs and canyons.
Scientists have been warning for years about the impact of global warming, caused in particular by the use of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases, and which is now apparent to millions of people. Heat waves are becoming more extreme, while storms that were once rare weather events are becoming more intense and more frequent.