…Future of Battery-Powered Vehicles…
Battery-powered vehicles (BEVs) are likely to replace internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in the U.S. during this century.
A few calculations concerning energy use leads to this conclusion.
Light vehicles, i.e., cars, SUVs and pickup trucks, consumed 131.6 billion gallons of gasoline in 2017, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
This is equivalent to 4,395 Terawatt hours (TWh) per year using a conversion of 33.4 kWh per gallon of gasoline.
Using data provided by the Department of Energy (DOE), battery-powered vehicles (BEVs) use 33 kWh/100 miles. Multiplying this usage times the total miles driven by light vehicles in 2016 results in a potential usage of 1,063 TWh per year for (BEVs).
The disparity between 4,395 TWh and 1,036 TWh reflects relative efficiencies of energy use.
Converting natural gas, for example, to electricity has an efficiency of around 63% in the most efficient natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant, while the newer, best internal combustion engine (ICE) has an efficiency of over 30%. The BEV has an efficiency of around 90%.
Altogether, BEVs will provide an energy efficiency that is approximately 60% better than ICE vehicles.
This basic improvement in energy efficiency favors the BEV over the ICE vehicle over the long haul.
However, there are roadblocks standing in the way of this future.
- First, the kWh usage could be higher than the 33 kWh/100 miles used in this calculation. The kWh usage cited by DOE for various BEV models goes as high as 47 kWh/100 miles. It’s too early to settle on kWh usage for BEVs at this stage of their development.
- Second, the cost of batteries must come down for BEVs to be competitively priced with ICE vehicles. The current cost of the battery for the Chevy Bolt is $205 per kWh and the replacement batterypack is quoted at over $15,000. The cost of the battery for BEVs should be below $100 per kWh for BEVs to be competitive with ICE vehicles. This could happen over the next 12 to 20 years.
- A nationwide network of charging stations must be developed. Not everyone will have access to an inexpensive ($1,000) home charging station. People living in apartment buildings who park on the street or in public parking, and people living in older homes having service entrances of only 100 amps will require access to public charging.
- Charging times for a full charge will have to come down to around 10 minutes, rather than the 20 to 60 minutes with most currently available public charging stations.
All the media hype about BEVs causing peak oil demand by 2025, or that BEVs will replace all ICE vehicles by 2050 is unrealistic poppycock. See, Peak Oil Politically Motivated Conjecture
However, the better energy efficiency of an electrified economy favors BEVs over ICEs, over the long haul.
And this should be the issue for policymakers.
Allowing free markets to determine how quickly the transition takes place will be more efficient than throwing money at promoting BEVs and all the infrastructure required to support them.
It will also avoid the pitfalls of adopting many short-term and questionable policies that might otherwise be adopted.
The transition could result in an economic boom
Electricity has the potential for propelling an economic advance across the world.
Not only will BEVs require substantial increases in power generation and transmission, but the billions of people around the world who must climb out of poverty will also create additional demand. Combined, these two forces have the potential to create an economic boom for the rest of this century.
The next article examines issues surrounding the transition to BEVs.
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Notes relating to efficiency calculations:
- Conversion factors for converting gasoline to TWh vary from around 32.9 to 33.7, depending on energy content of the fuel, e.g., e10.
- The 35% efficiency used for ICEs when estimating the better efficiencies of BEVs, reflects the work being done to improve the efficiency of new iCE vehicles. Existing ICEs have much lower efficiencies which help’s to explain why gasoline usage of 131.6 billion gallons, i.e., 4,395 TWh, was so high in 2016.
- It’s assumed that newer, more efficient NGCC plants will be built to provide the electricity for BEVs if the transition to BEVs is allowed to proceed based on market forces.
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