Electricity industry executives are either delusional or math illiterate. You choose.

The consulting firm, Black & Veatch conducts a survey (pdf) of the electricity industry each year, which provides insight into what the industry itself believes is happening and will happen in the future.  (Thanks to Grist for bringing this to my attention).

One of the questions and answers in particular caught my attention, because it struck me as being totally absurd.  Upon further digging, it turns out I was right; it is absurd.
Nissan Leaf

The question asked of the executives was:

What proportion of your annual energy load do you expect electric vehicles to represent by the end of each of the following years?

Here is the graph showing how they answered.
At first glance, this seems normal enough.  The table shows a pretty rapid growth, but many people believe the market for EVs is going to grow pretty rapidly, too.

But let's do the math.  Executives claim that more than 1% of the electricity generated next year, 2012, will go to charging electric vehicles.  How much is that, and is it even possible?

Here's the calculation to show that they have either lost their minds or have no idea how much electricity is generated at their own utility company.
Chevy Volt

- In 2008 the US generated about 4400 TWh of electricity (a TWh is 1,000,000,000 kWh)
- 1% of 4400 is 44 TWh
- A Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf can travel about 3 miles on a kWh of charge.
- 44 TWh of electricity then translates into 132 billion miles of driving
- Let's assume 12,000 miles per EV.  That's probably a high estimate, given that most EVs won't be used for longer trips.
- Result: 11 million EVs on the road for the entirety of 2012!!!! (according to electric industry executives)

Through May 2011, fewer than 2,500 Volts had been sold in the US.  As of mid-June about 2,100 Leafs (Leaves?) had been delivered in the US.

Extrapolating out to their response for 2025 gives a similarly absurd result: Electric utility executives expect there to be more than 100 million EVs on the road in 2025!!!

To do that would require that more than 1/3rd of all the cars sold between now and then to be electric.  But since it would take years to develop that manufacturing capacity, what it really means is that virtually all the cars manufactured after 2018 or so would have to be electric vehicles.  All of them.  What are they smoking?

It's hard to believe we pay executives as much as we do to be so ignorant of their own market.  Crazy.


  1. Interesting... However, if you use your math, I see something more interesting (to me). Do you mean that EVs today (Volt and Leaf) are so efficient that we can get 11,000,000 vehicles running on electricity and only use 1.09% of our electricity output? This seems very far fetched.

    If that is true fact, then our government should "triple down" on this technology and give 100s of billions to GM, Nissan and others to subsidize these cars to make them priced less than Internal Combustion Engine vehicles.

    Seems like the best way to spend our money to rid our ourselves our addiction to foreign oil... 10,000,000 Electric vehicles (keep in mind typical new vehicle sales in US are 11-16MM per year) using only 1/100 of our electricity!

    However.. this seems way to good to be true... or as some would say "Crazy" ;)

    To give some perspective at a "customer level", I expect to pay about $40/month to charge my Volt (detail of my financial analysis for Volt v. 2008 Impala: http://bobbleheadguru.com ), and pay maybe an average of $150/month for my electric bill (Summers are higher, Winters are lower).

    $40 / ($150+$40) = 21% or 1931% higher than your estimate.

    Should I argue that my bill should be 1.09% of my total bill or $1.63/month? Funny, the things you can do with math!

  2. I used the 3 miles per kWh from information I got on the web. Do you expect it to be different? That would change things somewhat, but not tremendously.
    For you, 15,000 miles at 3 miles per kWh = 3000 kWh, or about $330/year at 11 cents. You estimate $480 per year, which is well within the same order of magnitude. Perhaps some conversion losses and worse mileage during summers and winters would push down your mileage to 2 miles per kWh. That would make the national number closer to, say, 7,000,000 vehicles for 1% of the electricity.

    Still makes the electric utility execs look silly, IMO

    Also, keep in mind that most electricity is not used to power households--and even with 11 million cars, that's only 5-6% of all the cars. So your last equation is flawed on numerator and denominator. Use $400 instead of $150 and divide the $40 by 20 to account for all the non-EVs and we're back within that order of magnitude again.

    So let's reverse engineer using your car. $480 at 11 cents is 4363 kWh per year. Times 10 million cars = 44 TWh, which is 1% of national electricity generation. Hey, that's almost exactly what I said to start. Whaddya know?

  3. Small edit: 1 TWh is 1,000,000,000 kWh or 1e12 Wh.