ELECTRIC VEHICLES ARE a fixture of many a transportation utopia, and for good reasons. In a world still reliant on private transportation, they promise everything from lower pollution to higher torque. However, at least one counterpoint mars the dream of exhaust-free street racing: Today’s grid would likely fail catastrophically if the entire US car fleet immediately made the switch to running on electricity. Let’s call this scenario of massive, simultaneous electric vehicle uptake the Pluggening. “If every customer starts buying electric vehicles, obviously that would cause a big impact on utilities,” says Mohammed Beshir, a professor of electrical engineering at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. Picture transformers spewing sparks like they were celebrating Chinese New Year. That scenario, though, is pure fantasy. Current EV trends show low to moderate uptake rates.