Energy Infrastructure for All Electric Cars

Assuming each EV travels 12,000 miles annually, consuming approximately 300 Wh/mi of AC energy and assuming 4.9 % system losses for transmission and distribution, then each EV will require 3.8 MWh/year of energy generation.

If there were 10 million EVs in California then they would need 28 TWh/year. The US has added up to 100 Terawatt hours per year over ordinary recent four year periods. Adding power 25-30 TWH/yr would enable 10 million EVs per year to be added by the USA.

California generates about 280 TWh/year.

10% of the energy can be time-shifted with battery storage and with evening charging from the grid. This initially does not require new net energy generation because of the charging during non-peak times. This is what is happening now.

The US could handle 50 million EVs with offpeak charging with addition of some battery storage equal to one-fifth of the batteries used in the EVs themselves.

Getting back to average energy generation additions for five-year periods prior to this last decade would easily accommodate

Converting to 100 million electric cars for the entire united states can be done with off-peak charging and adding new net energy generation at the historical rate.

If someone installs solar power in California then a 370 watt panel would produce 2.2-kilowatt hours per day. 2000 watts of rooftop solar would produce 11-kilowatt hours of energy per day in California which would offset the energy used by an electric car driving 12000 miles. This would cost about $4000-5000 after tax credits. It would cost about $8000 after tax credits to add one 13.5 kwh Powerwall.

The additional solar and battery costs would be about the level of the cost of gasoline and oil changes for the first three to five years of car ownership.

The sunnier middle to bottom half of states would not have an issue affordably adding solar and batteries. If your electric car was $40k-60k then adding $12k-20k for the solar and batteries would enable charging of the car. Those batteries and solar can be added to homes or to public charging infrastructure.

Converting to 200 million electric cars for the entire united states can be done with off-peak charging and adding new net energy generation at the higher historical levels of new net energy addition.

16 thoughts on “Energy Infrastructure for All Electric Cars”

  1. The most recent estimates say that the U.S. is short of about 38m units of housing (a separate discussion should/could be had as to whether single-parent households, which are increasingly common now, are skewing the “need” for housing what 2 parents used to be able to afford before the divorce/separation levels soared starting in the 1960s, but this is probably not going to change near term, given social realities).
    Most of that housing will have to be multi-family both for affordability reasons and space considerations (also racial equity, since single family homes are de facto racially excluding). Well, multi-family housing buildings can’t generate enough solar energy on their rooftops to power all residents’ cars. This is apart from the decreasing demand for developers to provide garage space for every resident.
    Mass transit, shared cars – self-driving or just plain old cabs/Uber etc. – will be the future, not one passenger cars on already over-clogged roads and highways (destructive to the environment too).
    So, solar and wind power will have to be centrally located. And here the environmentalists conflict with their own “green” energy producers, not wanting to give up “natural space” for energy producing solar and wind turbine fields, which need 100s of acres, even before all the extra transmission lines, support roads, etc. This is as much a reason California is lagging behind its energy needs now, as a lack of spending and foresight.

  2. Peak pricing to consumers, ability to arbitrage, and BEVs V2G capability should be required by law to This is just a guess, but I think a minimum of 10kW continuous up, or down stream would be about right.

    • With Tesla starting to use VPP, one wonders why they wouldn’t re-evaluate their position on V2G. They have been paying $2/kwh for peaking events, and for cars with 75kwh capacity, even cycling down a third of its capacity would be acceptable for most users.

      I guess the downside is that car buyers would have to install a gateway at their home, which is already required for Powerwall stationary storage. For $2/kwh, I think most car owners would be willing to incur the battery degradation.

    • This analysis seems to have a glaring flaw. He assumes 4 weeks stationary battery storage for the global energy system. This is frankly ludicrous. Anyone who has a cursory knowledge of picking apart models would note that his assumption is that 95% of the copper required for his global energy system is used for this 4 week energy buffer. So he assumes that this is the most efficient allocation of resources to achieve a renewable energy grid. If this were my model I would be re-evaluating my assumptions. Would it not make sense to, instead, double, or quadruple energy production from solar and wind to slash that requirement for copper? And if production is 4x demand, you will rarely need longer term storage or dispatchable peaker capacity. The surplus, otherwise curtailed, electricity can be used to operate energy intensive industrial processes in a dispatchable capacity. This would be hydrogen, ammonia and methane synthesis, steel and aluminum smelting, etc. We would just need to optimize the industrial plant for being able to operate at a lower capacity factor (say 30-50% per year) at an optimal capital cost–energy efficiency being deprioritized because curtailed energy would be nearly free.

  3. Take a long look at the renewables trend curve from CAISO. If you remember your calculus, go ahead and integrate that curve. That’s a lot of power under that curve. How do we get more? Make the curve three, four or more times larger. Solar is absolutely dirt cheap. No one can counter that fact. It’s a reality. Additionally, looking at the mind boggling amount of battery back up going into California, utility battery storage is also cheap. The solution is simple. Over build with cheaply available resources. You can run the state with no issue, much to the chagrin of Fox News viewership and a few regular posting individuals here on NBF.

    • Battery storage is cheap? It’s as if just by saying it you’ve fixed all our problems and I can stop watching Fox News now. Thx

      • The level of battery storage going into California is skyrocketing, as are other states, Australia, Okinawa and many other places. The growth has accelerated beyond all expectations. It works. Mass implementation is making it cheaper. It’s going to seriously take off.

        • Well yes having battery storage is better than a black out but batteries are *not* cheap.

          If batteries were cheap then EVs would be cheap.

  4. When you say ‘time shifted’ I hope you’re confirming that in the larger scene of things, that not everyone will need to charge every night. After all, you don’t run out for gas every morning to top off your gas tank. You know that your 1/4 tank of gas (or battery) will get you to work and back, and handle your errands, for the next two or three days.

  5. Isn’t an awful lot of that power consumed in an industrial context? In factories near substations, for instance?

    The last mile of distribution would probably require considerable upgrading even if the factories near the substations conveniently stopped using the power about the time it would be needed in residential garages to charge cars. I’m pretty sure my one neighborhood’s distribution system would never carry that load.

    And, of course, there’s the issue that California is already short of electrical generation capacity, and having to ration out electricity to avoid rolling blackouts. Why? Because the state government didn’t want to spend money on upgrading infrastructure.

    Even now they’re promising that they WILL shut down Diablo Canyon in five years. Even now.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it would require regulators who actually cared about technical realities, and California seems lacking in those.

    • If cars are charging overnight, I really don’t see it being a problem even at the neighbourhood level. Add in smart grid management of charging of cars and it likely wouldn’t require any upgrades at all. I can imagine Tesla getting paid by grid operators for allowing them to have fine-grain control of the load, and customers will not be inconvenienced as long as their battery is filled to the desired level in the morning.

  6. The theory looks good.
    But the practice will need to provide solutions for infrastructure issues like – when all you have is on street parking on a first come, first served basis – how do you charge your car at all, much less off peak?
    Also, as Professor Michaux has brought into the larger green energy conversation, with the increased demand for rare metals like lithium and cobalt, what will be the cost of extraction as the readily available sources begin to be mined out? Do we have enough identified resources for what we want to do?

    • Lithium isn’t rare. Michaux has some glaring errors in his model: 95% of his copper demand is for 4 week stationary battery storage. This is just a total failure of imagination. Thankfully capitalists are resourceful and imaginative.

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