Electric Vehicles

We are rushing, headlong, into the electric vehicle era. Government after government has mandated that no further gasoline-based cars be manufactured after a particular date - say 2035.

We have discussed in this space that this appears to be another one of those religious acts which will wreak havoc in the real world. We have the mother of all religious acts in progress with the lack of investment in oil production and refining. Electrification-by-2035 is another example of magical thinking.

Electrification of cars will require a new grid, the mining of incredible amounts of materials beyond that being mined today and additional capacity on that grid.

The way I thoughtfully, carefully, constructively put it is that these people are fucking nuts.

SS, a thoughtful internet friend whom I seem to quote often, has summarized some of the challenges in an email. After that email was published in another forum, there were a number of insightful replies. The original email and selections from the replies are presented below. However, one big correction resulted, as explained by SS:

The long and short is that imo one needs to increase the generation capacity needed by AT LEAST 50% to counteract grid losses /charging converter losses /battery losses.  That means that it will take AT LEAST 3 plants of about 700 mw capacity each, vs the 2 I calculated out, to provide for 1 million electric vehicles.  Any surprises will be on the UPSIDE of MORE plants required imo ... AGAIN this does NOT cover the requirements needed for trucks, which the government currently estimates will be 30% to 40% of the electric vehicle demand ... and in my update I also note the "need" (yet to be voiced by the environmentalists) for electrifying America's railroads.

Keeping that in mind, here is the original email.

Electricity required for switching to electric powered vehicles:


There are a couple of ways to approach the issue.  One is to use a direct gallon of gas to kwh ratio (1 gal of gas = about 34.6 kwh) .  The other and imo BETTER way is to actually look at the average milage that electric vehicles get (electric  vehicles tend to be more efficient at converting energy to miles driven than traditional ICE vehicles which is why that is a better way to go imo)


Per US Government and other reputable websites here is the lowdown:


The US Government says that average passenger vehicle in the US (car or light truck) travels about 13,500 miles per year so that is the milage we will use here, though as most probably know those in urban California tend to travel more as do those in other large urban areas that are auto centered metroplexes.


US government statistics show that the average electric vehicle will use about 4700 kwh in doing those 13,500 miles, (about .3595 KWH per mile - or about 2.87 miles per KWH) though the actual efficientcy is all over the ball park, Tesla model 3's for example have one of the highest efficieny rates down in the .22 -.25 KWH per mile range.  Overall for FLEET averaging purposes though the government is using about 4700 kwh for the average of 13,500 miles per year so that is what I will use here.


The next question then becomes how much generation capacity is needed to provide for the electric vehicle demands?  


For this question we will utilize a typical large US nuclear power plant, which is generally about the same size as a dual unit coal burning plant and assume that plant's output to be 700 megawatts.  With both nuclear and coal plants "UP TIME" is not 100% so we do have to make an assumption as to how much down time those plants will have averaged over about a 4 year period but on an averaged year basis.  We will assume the downtime per plant, including still on line but reduced capacity over that period due to maintenance etc.,  will average 2 months per year, on average, over a 4 year period.  


700 MW   x  24 hours = 16,800 MWH per day.

16,800 MWH  x 304 days in service per year =  5,107,200 MWH per year that the plant can provide  


To make the math simple we will now the math simple we will reduce the individual car's requirment to MWH also, which translates into each car needing 4.7 MWH per year for it's recharging needs.


5,107,200 MWH  generated per plant per year  / 4.7  =   1,087,000 (rounded) vehicles per year that one 700 MW plant operating at full load 24/7 for 305 days can support.


So ... how many generating plants are going to be required to support the electrification of the US vehicle fleet?


California sells about 2 million cars per year, it is by far the largest market in the US with Texas a very distant second.  (overall the US market fluctuates around the 20 million cars /light trucks sold each year).  


Since this is NEW ADOPTION old electric vehicles will NOT be coming off of the grid as they age out for a number of years, so California, JUST FOR PASSENGER, vehicles is going to be needing to add roughly the capacity of TWO (2) new LARGE power plants per year each and every year during at least the first 10 years of the full adoption phase (half that in the 5 year ramp up phrase).   (US Government assumptions are that LARGE and MEDIUM trucks will actually be about 30% - 40%  of the electric demand for electric vehicles ... though that remains to be seen so it is NOT going to be added in).


Nationwide a complete electrification requirement for new vehicles would require 20 +- new Nuclear, or other very LARGE generating plants to be built EACH year for at least a 10 year period ... in addition to the ones currently being built or planned for replacing the retirement of older coal plants.  (NO new LARGE coal plants currently being built the last time I checked fwiw)




California is going to need AT LEAST 1 new LARGE generating system to be built every year from 2030 to 2035 and then AT LEAST 2 new LARGE generating systems to be built every year going forward from 2035 for at least the next 10 years  to support it's 2 million new vehicles sold per year (about 1 million per year starting about 2030 going through 2034 with their phased in approach 2030 requirements)


*Nuclear is at a standstill in the US.

*Hydro is basically tapped out

*The easiest and cheapest to build wind is now 30%+ -  built out

*Solar is expensive to build, requires vast amount of land if done on a utility scale, and is NOT as dependable as wind.  Huge storage issues are involved with Solar for time shifting the power, and when the sun shines is NOT when people will be wanting to charge up their cars since they will be at work, not at home.  


Solar to make hydrogen which can then be STORED and used later for Hydrogen Fuel Cell electric vehicles?  


Europe is moving in that direction but that does not seem to be the direction of the US (it is Toyota's favored direction too ... they already sell hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in Japan and in the LA market, as does Hyundai  - but the infrastructure build out to support hydrogen fuel cell vehicles would be immense and the US government, unlike European governments, is NOT providing funds for that build out)


So ... since California is leading the way is California going to be permitting the building of TWO (2) NEW huge electric generating sources per year to support its electric vehicle REQUIREMENT from 2035 onward ? (plus 1 new one each year 2030 to 2034)  imo ... DOUBTFUL!!


(It has been pointed out that when air conditioning came into widespread use the electrical demands in the US saw a similar HUGE increase in seasonal demand ... but that was before all of the environmental restrictions were in place making it became hard and expensive due to regulatory issues to build new generating capacity.  Today is it MUCH MUCH harder to bring new electrical energy generating capacity on line, both in money ... and maybe even more critical, in time.)

Now, for some of the comments to the original posting:

MR - Kudos to Stephen2 for his attempt. But something jumped out at me as missing: transmission losses of somewhere in the vicinity of 22% between generator and consumer. The situation is even worse than he envisions. ... Also not considered was battery efficiency. One source suggests 78% overall. 

And some related charts.