What If 10% of Vehicles Become Electric?
Electric vehicles are becoming more popular. Elon Musk and Tesla has proven it is a viable alternative to gas powered or hybrid vehicles. However, viability in the long term is not clear as yet. There are many hurdles to cross. Let me do some basic math and see.
- Oct. 2017
There are currently 250 million cars in the US. If just 10 percent are converted over to electric cars, that is 25 million. What are the challenges?
- auto manufactures must convert to making them, how many can be built per year? At what cost? And without subsidies. Can they be competitive with conventional vehicles?
- gas stations must accommodate electric cars, typical recharge of a vehicle takes approx. 30 minutes as compared to 5 minutes to gas up. Imagine how many more recharging stations would be needed and distributed across the country. There are currently 115000 gas stations in the US. That is a ratio of 2100 cars per station.
- Electric power requirements will be increased many fold as more cars switch from gasoline to electric. The utilities company would need to increase their capacity to generate power. Currently, most of these power plants are using natural gas and coal to produce electric power. Renewable power source such as solar and wind has not generated enough power to carry the load.
- the cost factor needs to be addressed. An electric car compared to a gasoline car costs the consumer 3-5 thousand dollars more even with some government subsidies and rebates. This is no small change.
- batteries and rare elements are a major component of electric vehicles. The natural resources will be eroded when more of these elements and lead are required to build these vehicles.
Whenever there is a major shift in technology, there will be macro economic effects. In this case, assuming the auto industry switch from gasoline to electric in a major way over the next 10-20 years, what will be the result?
The oil refinery business will be impacted negatively. So will the oil transport business of pipelines and trucks and rails. The shift from a distributed energy source as gasoline pumping stations to a centralized power utility model will mean major infrastructure changes. Our power grid was not designed to handle this scenario.
Time is money. When a large portion of the population is spending time waiting for their cars to be recharged, this will effect our overall productivity.
The convenience factor. The simple fact that a person can pull up to a pump and refill in a few minutes and then be able to drive 300 miles is a huge plus. It will be hard pressed for the electric car to match in convenience for quite a while.
I read a book recently called "A beautiful Question". It talks about how innovations and inventions came about because people asked the right questions and thereby solved a problem and improved our lives. In this article, I try to ask the questions of what if? In 2017, we are not there yet. We cannot replace 10% of our vehicles with electric cars. Some companies and technologists are pushing hard in that direction. They think it is the solution to our climate change emissions problem. I wonder? Are we asking the right questions?
© 2017 Jack Lee