Will BEVs Need New Power Plants?

Will BEVs Need New Power Plants?

No matter what the benefits of battery-powered vehicles (BEVs), proponents of BEVs are taking no chances that their pet project won’t be derailed.

While BEVs may have a compelling value proposition long term, they currently have some serious drawbacks. See, Battery-Powered Vehicles Value Proposition

Some of the more obvious negatives are:

  • BEVs are more expensive than internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEs)
  • It requires a long time to charge batteries
  • There is a high cost of building charging infrastructure
  • Range anxiety due to the limited range of BEVs

Proponents are downplaying these negatives in order to keep government support and government subsidies.

Another potential problem and added cost of BEVs is building the power plants needed to supply the electricity for BEVs.

Proponents are now floating the idea that energy efficiency measures will obviate the need for building very many new power plants.

This was the message in a recent article, The impact of electric vehicles on electricity demand, published in EnergyPost.EU,

It cited four events that would reduce the need for new power plants.

According to the EU article, “Roughly 60% of US electricity consumption comes from four end uses”:

  • Lighting
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
  • Machine drives
  • Appliances

Like so many studies on which the EU article is based, they mix apples with oranges.

However, two things are true: 

  • Motors are the most used product consuming electricity in the world, and air-conditioning/heating and most machine drives and appliances are driven by motors
  • Lighting is the second largest user of electricity

The EnergyPost.EU article refers to existing installations but ignores the growth in demand resulting from population growth and economic growth in undeveloped countries.

This chart on LED lighting from the EnergyPost.EU article isn’t clear as to whether it represents data for the United States, Europe or the world.

The chart is most likely for the US, as it’s extremely unlikely that expensive LEDs have become widely used in underdeveloped countries.

It’s also unclear whether the chart represents fixtures, i.e., sockets, or usage.

LEDs can save around 90% of the electricity used by an incandescent bulb.

If the chart reflects sockets, it understates the amount of lighting, i.e., Lumens, being produced by LEDs. Installations consuming the most electricity benefit the most from using less electricity, and also secure the greatest return on investment. 

For example, a light bulb in a closet may only be used 15 minutes a day, while kitchen or living room lights, that use larger bulbs, may be used several hours each day. More savings are realized by replacing an incandescent bulb with an LED in the living room than in a closest. In fact, it makes no economic sense to replace the bulb in the closet.

Rather than 27% penetration with related savings from existing LED installations, the existing penetration could represent twice the light, i.e., Lumens, being produced, or greater than 50% of the potential savings in electricity from LEDs because the existing penetration is in sockets having greater usage.

This means there is less opportunity for additional savings from LEDs and that savings beyond 2020 for LEDs could be substantially less. 

Contrary to the article in EnergyPost.EU, lighting won’t be a large contributor to reducing demand through energy efficiency when BEVs become more popular and begin to use large amounts of electricity.

The same is true with motors, except for a different reason.

Existing appliances and equipment that use motors will be replaced after their useful lives with new appliances using more efficient motors, but the number of appliances, etc., added in underdeveloped countries in Africa and Asia will add more load than being saved from small efficiency improvements when replacing worn-out equipment.

For example, a modern refrigerator uses around 400 kWh per year. Replacing it in ten years with a new refrigerator may save 40 kWh per year, but the new refrigerator added to a home in Africa will add 360 kWh per year to the load, or nine times the amount saved in the US or Europe.

The real question is:

Why are environmentalists trying to downplay the amount of power generation required by BEVs?

There probably are two reasons for publishing a misleading article claiming that not much new power will be needed by BEVs. 

  1. Adding new power plants to meet the needs of BEVs will cost a great deal of money, and people could object to the added cost.
  2. All of the new power generation required by BEVs will be generated by power plants using fossil fuels, specifically natural gas.

See, Extensive Ramifications of Battery Electric Vehicles, for why the US will need to build 236 new natural-gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants rated 480 MW at a cost of around $113 billion to meet the demand created by BEVs.


The misleading EnergyPost.EU article is attempting to divert attention from the infrastructure costs resulting from BEVs.

Proponents of BEVs trumpet the benefits of BEVs while downplaying their negatives. They don’t want to lose the subsidies that governments are currently bestowing on BEVs.

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2 Replies to “Will BEVs Need New Power Plants?”

  1. Donn,
    I note that the EU chart on 2018 and later has an E after the date which apparently is estimated and happens to coincide with an increase in upward slope of the curve.
    Is this wishful thinking or intentional distortion?

    • It’s their estimate. However, as noted in the article, they don’t say whether it is the percent of sockets filled or of the amount of lighting, i.e., Lumens, being supplied by LEDs. There is no question LEDs will eventually replace nearly all incandescent bulbs. The question I raised is over the timing. I suspect the percentage of lighting being supplied by LEDs is greater than they estimate for 2017 and 2018. After all the sockets that are used 4 to 8 hours per day have been filled with LEDs, there will remain those that are used so little it makes no sense to replace the incandescent bulb until it burns out.