As reported in Blowout week 146 the EU is drafting legislation to mandate the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in new homes while Germany and the Netherlands are considering legislation requiring that all cars and light vehicles sold after 2025 or 2030 must be 100% electric. None of this legislation has as yet been approved, but if it is how much extra electricity will be needed to power the millions of EVs involved, and how much will it cost? I’ve seen no numbers on this, so in this post I present some, starting with Germany, the Netherlands and the EU and adding a few more countries – and the world – as we go. Because of the uncertainties in the data and assumptions used the numbers should be considered as ball-park estimates only.
First Sources of data:
I used the following data to make estimates of how much additional electricity and electric generating capacity would be needed to power the EV fleets:
1. Number of cars and light vehicles currently registered
I obtained these data from a variety of sources too numerous to cite. In some cases the numbers are not entirely reliable.
2. Average distance driven per vehicle per year.
As per 1.
3. Average consumption in kWh/100km
4. Average capacity factor of the additional electric capacity needed.
The idea of going to EVs is to reduce GHG emissions, so I assumed that the additional capacity would be “new renewables” – dominantly offshore wind and solar PV. After checking various published numbers I estimated an overall capacity factor of 30%.
5. Average cost of additional capacity in $/kW installed
After once more checking a number of capital cost estimates I estimated an overall cost of $3,000 per installed kilowatt.
I could, however, make no estimates for the following items, which could – almost certainly will – significantly increase costs:
6. The grid upgrades, domestic wiring upgrades, charging stations, smart meters etc. needed to distribute the additional electricity and charge/discharge the EVs.
7. EV purchase costs (which would probably have to be subsidized)
The idea underlying the EU legislation is that the EVs will act as storage batteries that can be charged from the grid during periods of low demand and/or high generation and discharged back into the grid during periods of high demand and/or low generation, thereby smoothing out the load curve while making full use of intermittent renewables generation. The estimates assume that this can be done with 100% efficiency, although it certainly won’t turn out that way in practice.
Finally, all costs are given in US dollars.
Now to the results:
Legislation requiring that only EVs will be sold in Germany after 2030 has been passed by the Bundesrat, Germany’s lower house, but needs to pass the Bundestag, the upper house, before it becomes law. If it is passed we get the results shown in the table below. Replacing all of Germany’s 44,403,124 fossil-fuel-fired cars with EVs would require a 31% increase in Germany’s electricity generation and a 40% increase in Germany’s installed capacity. The cost of installing this extra capacity would be $232 billion:
Note: 2015 total electricity generation is from the 2016 BP Statistical Review
But if Germany shuts down its coal and nuclear plants the situation becomes a lot worse. To replace the generation from this 60GW of lost baseload capacity Germany would have to install another 140GW of renewables, and adding this to the 77GW of capacity needed to service EVs increases the installation cost from $232 to $650 billion.
The Netherlands lower house has passed a bill requiring that all vehicles registered in the country after 2025 – five years before Germany – must be EVs, although the legislation won’t pass into law until approved by the Dutch senate, which is presently mulling it over. As shown in the table below replacing the Netherlands’ 8 million fossil-fuel-fired cars with EVs would require a 21% increase in electricity generation and a 24% increase in installed capacity. The cost of installing this extra capacity would be $27 billion. Costs are proportionately lower than in Germany because the Dutch drive less:
Norway was considering EV legislation earlier this year but has decided that market forces alone will achieve the desired result. (Assisted by government subsidies that covered about half of the total purchase price, a third of the vehicles sold in Norway in 2015 were EVs. The government is in fact now considering rolling the subsidies back.) As shown in the table replacing Norway’s 2.5 million million fossil-fuel-fired cars with EVs would require only a 7% increase in electricity generation and a 12% increase in installed capacity. The cost of installing this extra capacity would be $11 billion. Norway gets off lightly in relative terms because most of its electricity goes to industrial installations such as smelters and metal refineries.
The legislation currently being prepared by the EU shows that it is thinking along the same lines as Germany and the Netherlands. If the EU eventually adopts a 100% EV policy the requirements will be as shown below. Replacing the EU’s 250 million fossil-fuel-fired cars with EVs would require a 34% increase in electricity generation and a 43% increase in installed capacity. The overall cost of installing this extra capacity would be $1.3 trillion. Requirements would, however, vary significantly from country to country.
Now to the countries and regions that are not actively considering 100% EV legislation. What would it take for them to go to 100% EVs within the next few decades?
The UK: A 36% increase in generation and a 49% increase in installed capacity, costing $140 billion.
The USA: A 29% increase in generation and a 44% increase in installed capacity, costing $1.4 trillion.
China: An 11% increase in generation and a 16% increase in installed capacity, costing $735 billion. Note, however, that these numbers increase to 19%, 27%, and $1.2 trillion if we assume that the number of vehicles in China continues to grow at 4.4%/year through 2030.
The World: An 18% increase in generation and a 30% increase in installed capacity, costing $5.0 trillion. These numbers increase to 26%, 44%, and $7.3 trillion if we assume that the number of vehicles in the world continues to grow at 2.7%/year through 2030.
To paraphrase Everett Dirksen, “a trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” But none of the costs listed above, which will be spread over several decades, are beyond the financial capacity of the countries involved. The question is whether 100% EVs will solve the problem of renewables intermittency?
The Guardian has no doubt that it will, “the EU initiative …. would open the door to a futuristic world in which cars supply energy to Europe’s power network at all times of the day and night, balancing shortfalls from intermittent renewable energies when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing.” And on the face of it there is indeed a lot to be said for having EVs do double duty as transportation and as a source of energy storage. (If the UK’s 25.8 million cars were all 30kWh EVs they would store 774GWh when fully charged, almost a hundred times as much as the Dinorwig pumped hydro plant.) In practice, however, there are the following problems:
• To balance the “shortfalls from intermittent renewable energies at all times of the day and night” the EVs would have to be plugged in to the grid at all times of the day and night, meaning that they would never go anywhere.
• Although it sounds like a lot, 744GWh is in fact enough to power the UK for only about a day. So after a couple of windless and sunless days a renewables-dependent UK would have 25.8 million EVs with dead batteries.
• EV owners will be happy to plug their vehicles in when there is enough surplus generation to charge them but may conveniently forget to do so when the current flow is going the other way.
• The weather being unpredictable, there is no way anyone can be sure that their EV will be charged up when they need it to be.
So if EVs are to double duty as transportation and storage a compromise must be reached that allows them to do both. The result will be that only a small fraction of the stored EV energy would be available for use at any one time, meaning that even if the UK had a 100% electric vehicle fleet it would still not solve the intermittent renewables problem.
There’s also the problem of the ancillary equipment needed to make the system work. Grid upgrades to handle the increased power flows will cost money, and installing charge/discharge plugs in millions of homes and apartment blocks won’t be cheap either. Neither will the subsidies that will almost certainly be necessary to induce people to buy EV s in the first place ($10,000/EV for 25.8 million EVs, for example, works out to $258 billion). And somehow all these millions of installations will have to be linked together so that charging occurs when surplus power is available and discharging occurs when is isn’t – provided that the vehicle is plugged in and not out driving around somewhere and that the owner has remembered to plug it in.
And also provided that bursts of non-synchronous energy from millions of EV batteries don’t crash the National Grid.
And further provided, of course, that everyone has an EV to begin with. Will the auto industry be able to manufacture and market enough of them? According to the NASDAQ projections shown in the Figure below there’s a good chance it won’t. NASDAQ projects that there will be only about 400 million EVs in the world by 2040. Somewhere around 2 billion EVs would be needed for a 100% global EV fleet in 2040:
The legislators in the European Commission, the German Bundesrat and the Dutch lower house are clearly laboring under the misconception that Europe is firmly on course for a bright green renewable energy future and that EVs will be a key part of it. They seem to be unaware of the subsidy rollbacks, policy changes and decreasing “clean energy” investment that will likely prevent this from happening. They are in fact following in the footsteps of California, which in 1990 passed legislation requiring that 2 percent of the vehicles sold in the state by 1998, 5 percent of the vehicles sold by 2001 and 10 percent of the vehicles sold by 2003 be zero-emission vehicles. The legislation had to be rescinded when the ZEVs failed to materialize.