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The forecast for today shows no signs of a break: Angelenos can expect afternoon highs of 103 F. 4 is shaping up to be one of the first real tests of the so-called smart grid, an effort to create a nimbler, more efficient, less vulnerable electrical grid.

It will also test the nearly 500,000 electrified vehicles in the state.

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And then there are Level 3 chargers, known as fast chargers, 440-volt stations that can get some batteries back to 80 percent in 15 to 20 minutes, but they generally are in remote locations and their surcharge rivals gas prices.

Not that you pay much attention to gas prices anymore.

Today, you opt for the quickest path to work, and instead of sweating out the last miles as the sun starts to bake your preconditioned cabin, you crank the a/c. Neither is the alert window, apologizing for the inconvenience, explaining that your company's chargers have been temporarily disabled to assist the local utility's load management.

There are five Level 2 charging spots at work, and only seven employees with GEVs. Sure enough, when your car glides into the parking lot emitting a high-pitched whine--one of countless downloadable car tones, required by law to reduce the risk of collisions with pedestrians--all of the chargers are free. This, it hits you, is how the smart grid begins to fail--not with a bang or a brownout, but a million polite refusals.registers a couple of million electric vehicles.

You pull the spare Level 2 charging cable out of the trunk, plug in and check the station's LCD display. The Department of Energy predicts a 0.1 percent increase in overall electricity demand per million plug-ins.

Other experts see no more than a 1 percent bump by 2020.

The push to make plug-in vehicles a key part of America's automotive mix began in earnest back in 2010, when the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf were poised to hum into dealerships.

That same year, strict new mileage standards forced carmakers to begin developing petroleum-free methods to power portions of their fleets.

But vehicles were only one part of the equation--what would happen, exactly, when people plugged them in? And would an aging, weather-vulnerable electrical grid be able to safely charge thousands, even millions, of the most power-hungry consumer products in history? It's a number that's seen as either a minor triumph or a total disaster--higher than some analysts had estimated, but short of the 14 million that companies like Nissan had predicted, accounting for less than 1 percent of the national fleet (a smaller market share than even diesel).

In the summer of 2020, the answers to many of these questions are becoming clear (PM interviewed over two dozen engineers, analysts and other experts to create this hypothetical scenario): By this time the U. Half are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), with lithium-ion battery packs that provide 40 or 50 miles of electric range, and liquid-fuel engines that kick in for longer trips.

The switch from hydrocarbons to electrons has been, for you, a bargain..

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