So I went to an awesome conference in Ann Arbor on Wednesday where I got to hear Obama's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission head nominee, Ron Binz, talk about "disruptive challenges" facing America's utilities (Hint: rooftop solar is one of them).
Anyway, he and others at the presentation (one of them was an executive at the PJM power grid) made statements about electric cars that blew my mind.
Electric car use won't put much of a strain at all on our Nation's power grid.
If we have an "aggressive" transition to electric vehicles, the increased use of electricity will barely make a dent in the Nation's demand for electricity. Barely a dent.
I know, right? It seems pretty counter-intuitive. But there it is.
And it's not because we're seeing astronomical rises in electricity demand either. In fact, the rise in the electricity market has been under 1% for years. And it's projected to stay there if we do NOTHING. Even if we do NOTHING AND we start driving electric cars, we'll STILL see an annual growth rate in the electric market of UNDER 1%.
How is that even POSSIBLE?
In a nutshell, household energy use as a percentage of total energy consumption in the US is around 30%. In the MOST DRAMATIC (and unrealistic) scenario, EVERY HOUSEHOLD IN AMERICA goes out and buys a brand new Electric Vehicle all in one year.
An electric vehicle uses about as much electricity as half a house. So if the whole transition happens in one year.....we'll see electricity demand jump by about 15%.
But that's not going to happen.
The most aggressive projection for electric vehicle growth is 10% of all registered vehicles by 2035. To put that into perspective, there's just 2 million registered gas-electric hybrids on the road today out of 240 million passenger vehicles in the US. So.......10% for EVs is a HUGE goal.
10% of all cars being EVs would weigh in at a whopping 147 terawatt hours per year, or just about 3% of all energy projections for 2035.
So from 2010 to 2035 a 10% growth in electricitc vehicles will be a 3% rise in electricity use. That's 3% spread out over the course of 25 years. What is that? .12% rise each year? I don't even know how that adds up.
We'd have a bigger draw in our power supply if everybody decided to TiVo Dr. Who all at the same time...*cough* I don't know if that's true. It just sounded dramatic. But you get the point.
Meanwhile, as electric cars SLIGHTLY nudge power use up, other forces are driving power use DOWN...we heard the Prez on Tuesday talking about energy efficiency programs....improved codes and standards.....
This chart here is from the Edison Institute, Innovation Electricity Efficiency study:
Here's a chart which shows how the US demand increase in energy has actually leveled off to less than 1% per year and even recently went negative....and is projected to stay under 1% going forward......
And if utilities are hoping that the electric car will suddenly increase demand for more electricity...................it's just not going to happen.
Electricity usage isn't going to surge back up no matter what. Not even from electric cars. Households aren't going back to energy hog fridges. New homes aren't going back to the uninsulated sieve like architecture of the 1920s. People aren't going back to the incandescent light bulbs. The arc of electricity use per household is going DOWN. And businesses are doing it too.....it's about saving money.
Anyway...the bottom line is...............Electric cars aren't going to cause a spike in electricity use. Some critics may try to make that claim...and it SEEMS true. But it's not.