Extensive Ramifications of Battery Electric Vehicles

Extensive Ramifications of Battery Electric Vehicles

The purpose of this article is to highlight the important consequences that battery-powered vehicles (BEVs) will have on the grid as they replace internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEs).

The greater energy efficiency of BEVs compared with ICE vehicles, described in the previous article, should ultimately result in the preponderance of light vehicles being battery powered.

Some effects BEVs will have on the grid can be predicted with some degree of certainty. Other effects must rely on speculation or educated guesses.

Photo by D. Dears

Power Generation

Total US electricity generation in 2017 was 4,015 TWh. 

The new demand created by BEVs could require constructing new power plants capable of producing 1,325 TWh, with the addition of 151,270 MW of new generating capacity. (Accounts for line-losses and capacity factor of 85% for NGCC power plants.)

However, the existing grid has low demand during nighttime hours, so existing generating capacity can absorb some of the additional load created by BEVs without adding new capacity.

No one knows how much demand can be absorbed during night time hours if BEVs were to charge during off-peak hours.

A reasonable assumption is for 25% of the increased demand from BEVs to be absorbed during off-peak hours, i.e., between midnight and 6 am. 

If 25% of the new BEV demand can be absorbed by existing generating capacity, only 113,452 MW of new capacity will need to be built.

Based on these assumptions, approximately 236 new NGCC power plants rated 480 MW will have to be built at a cost of around $113 billion to meet the demand created by BEVs.

Additional considerations

  • No provision has been made in these calculations for population growth that will require more light vehicles and additional power generation capacity.
  • Some have suggested that autonomous vehicles will result in a decline in the number of light vehicles. The paper “An Examination Of The Effect Of Autonomous And Electric Vehicles On The Automotive And Oil Industries” available from this website explains why autonomous vehicles may not have a large effect on how many light vehicles are sold each year. In addition, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, the development of autonomous vehicles will take longer than anticipated. It’s not clear how necessary it will be to accurately map fixed features on the streets and roads, compared with using LiDar, cameras etc., to respond to variables, i.e., pedestrians etc., encountered by vehicles. This year, MIT said, “The need for dense 3-D maps [identifying fixed locations of roadways and objects] limits the places where self-driving cars can operate.
  • Some have suggested that improving how we use electricity, by improving efficiency, will reduce demand. However, LED lighting is the largest improvement in electrical efficiency available and a great deal of the transition from incandescent to LED lighting has already taken place.
  • No one knows how actions to cut CO2 emissions can negatively affect the economy as it shifts to BEVs. For example: Time of Use pricing could result in more BEV charging at night, thereby exceeding available capacity: Vehicle to Grid, where car batteries are used to meet grid demand, could result in shifting battery charging to peak periods and result in a need for additional generating capacity.
  • Beginning in the mid-2030s, nuclear power plants will begin to be shut down as their operating licenses expire. Replacing these units will require building 113,421 MW of natural gas (NGCC) capacity over a period of around fifty years, or approximately five, 480 MW NGCC plants per year. 
  • It’s estimated that an additional 60, 480 MW NGCC power plants will be needed to replace coal-fired power plants that will close over the next twenty years.
  • The ethanol industry will disappear, along with using corn for ethanol production, as BEVs replace ICE vehicles using ethanol in gasoline.
  • A shift from oil to batteries also shifts resource availability, from the United States to foreign countries, primarily Japan and China. At the moment, there are few plans to develop a Li-ion battery manufacturing capability in the United States, other than the Tesla battery plant in Nevada, which, for the most part, is a packaging and assembly plant using Japanese Li-ion cells. In combination with a lack of manufacturing capability in the US is a capability to reprocess used Li-ion batteries.

Against this backdrop of building new NGCC power plants to replace nuclear and coal-fired plants that are being closed, plus building additional units to accommodate growth, the building of an additional 236 new NGCC 480 MW power plants to accommodate BEVs becomes a major undertaking.

Building 236 new NGCC power plants, plus the charging network across the United States, will cost a great deal of money.

Spending additional billions of dollars for subsidies to accelerate the growth of BEVs makes little sense. 

A government policy supporting research and development for battery manufacturing and recycling would be far better than the existing policy of using tax dollars to support the sale of BEVs and the subsidizing of wind and solar and carbon capture and sequestration.

Given the very large investment requirements for building new power plants and charging infrastructure, and that haste makes waste, it makes more sense to allow market forces to determine how quickly the transition to electrified transportation takes place.

. . .


For those interested, these are the assumptions used in this article.

      • Estimated total demand for BEVs is 1,063 TWh. However, the capacity factor. i.e., the amount of electricity actually generated during the year compared to what could theoretically be produced based on the nameplate rating, for a modern natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant is 85%, while line-losses are estimated at 6%, which means it is necessary to add NGCC generation capacity with a total nameplate rating of at least 1,325 TWh. Typical NGCC power plants are rated 480MW, but some can be built twice that size.
      • Average cost of an NGCC power plant is $1,000/KW.
      • Over the past few years, the US has installed the equivalent of around 12 NGCC units per year, rated 480 MW. Twice this many could be built in 2018. Most of these were to replace coal-fired power plants that have been shut down.
      • No one has any experience with when BEV charging will take place. Managing charging during off-peak hours will require new disciplines to ensure BEV charging doesn’t shift to peak periods thereby accidentally exceeding installed generating capacity. A small shift in charging from nighttime to midday could cause havoc.
      • Wind and solar weren’t considered as a provider of power for BEVs for several reasons, but primarily because they can’t even replace existing power plants.
      • LEDs have been the major reason for improved electrical efficiency and for the lower growth in demand over the past several years. For a complete discussion of LEDs see:

    Growth in Electricity Consumption – Part 1, http://bit.ly/2DH3cgP

    Growth in Electricity Consumption – Part 2, http://bit.ly/2EoaALb 

    LEDs, Energy Saving Marvels – Part 1, http://bit.ly/2saq018 

    LEDs, Energy Saving Marvels – Part 2, http://bit.ly/2tBGttN 

    . . .


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6 Replies to “Extensive Ramifications of Battery Electric Vehicles”

  1. Assuming that the added capacity for charging batteries is provided on an objective/transparent least-cost integrated resource planning (IRP) basis, and properly vetted by regulators, NGCC’s would likely be chosen.

    However, in-conjunction with LCOE propaganda that renewables are becoming LCOE competitive with NGCC’s, electric utilities are opting for wind and/or solar often coupled with stationary batteries.

    Regulators are becoming indoctrinated and subsequently, consumers will be exploited.



    • I agree there is a danger that consumers are being exploited by advocates of wind and solar. Regulators are part of the problem. Some politicians are also part of the problem. I think we have to deal with the propaganda by educating as many people as possible about the facts. This is why I bother to write my articles.
      The AGW crowd has misled large numbers of people about the need to eliminate CO2, and have also misled them about wind and solar. Wind is bad under all circumstances. Solar can be useful only where there is a great deal of sunlight throughout the year, and where the cost of importing natural gas or coal is high, e.g., for islands.
      I agree wholeheartedly that wind and solar are nearly always more expensive, are unreliable and bad for Americans.
      It looks as though BEVs are different, in that they have a value proposition that is favorable. They use energy more efficiently, have better performance, i.e, acceleration and being quiet, and have no emissions, which is important in urban environments.
      Time will tell whether BEVs can actually result in these benefits, which is another reason to allow market forces to determine how quickly BEVs replace ICEs.

  2. I know you care deeply about the greater good and that it’s the reason you write. Me too. Here’s the best way to handle it: Just say no to subsidies.

  3. In addition for recharging stations to be constructed in many places for daytime charging (e.g. while at work),so facilities will be need at night. Many autos are parked on streets, in apartment parking lots, in detached garages with only 110V. All these will cost.
    Further, one of the main drivers of electric vehicles is to decrease fossil fuel use, which requires generating electricity from solar or wind (or nuclear). Electricity produced from a mix of gas and coal (as now) produces as much CO2 as oil per energy unit. But the Sun does not shine at night and the wind is more often calm at night.

    • Correct. That’s why electricity will be generated from natural gas. Wind and solar can’t even replace the existing generation, so it won’t be able to supply electricity for BEVs. The cost for charging stations will be very large, in the billions of dollars.
      And BEVs should have nothing to do with CO2.
      They must have a value proposition that warrants the investment. There should be no subsidies for BEVs or for charging stations.