Originally published on Oilprice.com
by Henry Hewitt
What would the world look like if electric cars took the lead in market share by 2030? “Couldn’t happen,” you say?
Consider the ramping up of some of the most basic items that have conquered the American market over the past century. Refrigerators went from a luxury item to 60 percent household penetration during the Depression and World War II. Technologies we used to live without including PCs, the Internet, and cell phones have become an integral part of daily life.
Once a breakthrough gets its footing, the rise to mainstream requirement is meteoric and, for reasons unknown (Copernicus has yet to weigh in), the rocket burn lasts about 15 years as the chart above indicates. Trace the rise of both electricity and automobiles. Radios had the sharpest rise of all, which may be why the 1920s were known as the Radio Days. Since the war, color TVs, microwaves, VCRs, PCs, the Internet and cellphones have all caught on as fast as radio. The air-conditioning vector appears to have been bent by the oil embargo in 1973. Auto production sputtered and coughed during the Depression, and throughout the war years, as factories churned out tanks and airplanes. It is not a coincidence that when the stock market peaked in 1929, auto production did too; neither would exceed the 1929 level until 1953.
We are about to find out if electric vehicles can make their mark and become mainstream. The launch sequence and liftoff phase (now barely underway) will soon reveal the extent of their fuel supply, i.e. How much interest will consumers have in EVs when a 200-mile-per-charge car costs less than $25,000? When a 60 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery costs $9,000, there will be plenty of room in the budget to build a lightweight car around it. (UBS says that at $150 per kWh, the key variable in the calculation above, the EV market will take off.
At any price, the cost of ownership falls by 75 percent (not including cheaper insurance and maintenance); gasoline miles costing 12 cents each (at the current mileage standard with $3 per gallon) cannot compete with electric miles costing 3 cents or less.
An average 15,000 mile per year commuter in the US (NHTSA) will save roughly $1,350 in the first year, and the expected 5-year savings are $10,000 (as renewable power gets cheaper and, though no one knows, gasoline could still get a lot more expensive), just the sum needed to put 3 kilowatts (kW) of PV panels on your roof. (You can install 5 kW in Germany for that.) This figure will supply you with all 14,000 miles (from 4,200 kWh – USA average — in the desert in the southwest the output doubles).
However, if your house can’t see the sun, or it points in the wrong direction, or your landlord is not interested, or you live in an apartment or condo, NREL estimates that half of all residential and commercial PV will be ‘shared solar,’ also known as Community Solar, by 2020, when multiple independent owners benefit from a larger centralized array.
But if electric vehicles at all resemble technologies of the past, they could rapidly transform from a niche product into a mainstream necessity in a relatively short period of time.
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