March 12, 2008
Electric Cars Will Not Need New Electric Power Plants?

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers claim if pluggable hybrids don't get recharged until after 10 PM then they will require little or no additional electric power plants.

In an analysis of the potential impacts of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles projected for 2020 and 2030 in 13 regions of the United States, ORNL researchers explored their potential effect on electricity demand, supply, infrastructure, prices and associated emission levels. Electricity requirements for hybrids used a projection of 25 percent market penetration of hybrid vehicles by 2020 including a mixture of sedans and sport utility vehicles. Several scenarios were run for each region for the years 2020 and 2030 and the times of 5 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., in addition to other variables.

The report found that the need for added generation would be most critical by 2030, when hybrids have been on the market for some time and become a larger percentage of the automobiles Americans drive. In the worst-case scenario—if all hybrid owners charged their vehicles at 5 p.m., at six kilowatts of power—up to 160 large power plants would be needed nationwide to supply the extra electricity, and the demand would reduce the reserve power margins for a particular region's system.

The best-case scenario occurs when vehicles are plugged in after 10 p.m., when the electric load on the system is at a minimum and the wholesale price for energy is least expensive. Depending on the power demand per household, charging vehicles after 10 p.m. would require, at lower demand levels, no additional power generation or, in higher-demand projections, just eight additional power plants nationwide.

Since I suspect the world has already reached Peak Oil I expect the shift to electrically-powered vehicles will happen sooner than this study assumes. Also, total electric demand will grow more rapidly as dwindling oil supplies cause a big shift toward electrically powered equipment of all kinds.

The great difference in power plant usage between the afternoon and late night is partly a result of a lack of dynamic pricing. If electric rates for homes varied by the time of day based on relative levels of demand then people and companies would shift more of their electric demand toward the late night even before significant numbers of hybrid vehicles hit the market. Such a shift in demand would cause higher utilization of power plants at night and therefore less excess power generation capacity available to charge electric cars.

Fortunately thermal solar and photovoltaic solar will drop in prices and will become cost competitive sources of day time power. Electric cars will then preferentially get recharged in the morning sun before the peak business demand for electric power in the afternoon.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 March 12 11:06 PM  Energy Transportation

Brett Bellmore said at March 13, 2008 3:52 AM:

It would also cause lower utilization during the day, of course, since it would spread the usage around, not much change it. So you'd just want some people to charge during the day, some at night. You could do that if employers offered to charge their employees' cars.

The real obstacle to home charging of electric cars, I would think, is the capacity of the current residential power grid.

Wolf-Dog said at March 13, 2008 6:24 AM:

"Electricity requirements for hybrids used a projection of 25 percent market penetration of hybrid vehicles by 2020 including a mixture of sedans and sport utility vehicles."

This means that we are making VERY slow progress towards electric cars, and this is why the current electric grid will be enough until 2020. But if we get have pure electric cars by 2020, then at 100 gigawatt nuclear reactors would be enough to charge these cars every day. Building 100 reactors would cost less than $200 billion, which would be only $20 billion per year, which is only a small fraction of the annual cost of the war in Iraq.

But if the government spends only $100 billion to improve the battery technology, then by 2020 we can get pure electric cars.

pond said at March 13, 2008 8:12 AM:

Chalk this up to another of those 'if we torture the numbers enough, we can make them say whatever the heck we want' studies that rely on uncritical or lazy journalists to generalize and mis-state what even the studies say, and come up with headlines such as yours (sorry about that).

This is not a study about 'electric cars' but about plug-in hybrids, most of whose power comes from gasoline (depending on usage - which is another number that can be tortured in the matrix).

So IF we only have so many cars, and IF they only pull so many KWh's off the grid, and IF they are evenly distributed around the country, and IF they plug in only at certain hours, THEN -- MAYBE -- we will only need as many power plants as we are PROJECTED to have in 12 and 22 years' time. Great

Now maybe the scientists can get back to work and tell us something useful.

peak_oil_politics said at March 13, 2008 11:38 AM:

The US needs more nuclear power plants to support a large scale EV fleet. Renewables can't do the job for the next two or three decades, so unless the politicians take their hands off coal, heavy oil, tar sands, shale oil, and the rest, nuclear is all that is left that can do the job for EVs, HEVs, and PHEVs.

Political peak oil has been reached. Real world peak oil is another story, but politics rules, so okay.

Randall Parker said at March 13, 2008 6:40 PM:

I suspect that for the US peak oil consumption has already been reached. 2007 might turn out to be a high point in the US consumption of conventional oil. Rising Asian demand will gradually raise prices so far that a lot of demand destruction in the US will cause a decline in US oil consumption.

Recessions usually cause a cooling in commodity prices. The problem for the US is that Asian demand will grow during the US recession. So inflationary pressures won't cool much. The US Federal Reserve is going to end up raising interest rates during this recession due to rising inflation during the recession.

I wish the diesels were here already. Ditto the pluggable hybrids.

Andrew Robinson said at March 13, 2008 8:42 PM:

If pure electric cars means we have decent, cheap batteries good enough to drive a car all day long, then we can afford to buy one or more for home use. Charge up these home batteries at night, when the usage and cost is low, then run off of them for part or all of the day.

In this matter, a lot of current electrical usage would equalize during the 24 hour day/night period, lowering our need for additional power generation plants. Has anyone considered this?

Jump said at March 13, 2008 9:45 PM:

I hate to interrupt the fantasy, but "Peak Oil" is a myth. Crude oil is not a fossil fuel.

Doubt that? Hey, here's one for ya. Did you know that carbon has two stable isotopes, C12 and C13? The naturally occuring ratio of C12 to C13 is 99/1. But organic life prefers C12, so the ratio in organic life is much higher than the 99/1 ratio. If crude oil comes from rotting life, that is.

If crude oil really comes from fossils, its easy to prove, because the C12/C13 ratio should be significantly higher than 99/1. So instead of the useless tallies of "The Remaining Reserves of the Worlds Great Oil Fields" on Peak Oil scam sites like the, we can find out the truth of the matter, as the abiogenetic folks claim. Have the "Peak Oil" mythologists take samples from the worlds major oil fields and test the C12/C13 ratio to prove that, indeed, crude oil comes from fossils, and "Peak Oil" is real. But they won't because it will expose the scarcity scam.

BTW, for the uninformed, the oil business has been all about creating artificial scarcity because there is WAY too much of the stuff all around the world, and there always has been. From Standard Oil monopolizing the refinery business, to the founding of the Texas Railroad Commission, to the creation of OPEC, to the funding of the "environmental movement" by the oil companies, the goal has always been to restrict production, the number of major players, the land available for exploration and production, and to manipulate oil prices for control of the national economies and politicians worldwide. With the help of the US military gun, or course.

The "Peak Oil" myth is yet another scam of the oil industry to create the illusion of artificial scarcity. Gigantic profits now so that they can buy up all the alternative energy companies that will threaten their energy monopoly. And uninformed syncophants repeating the nonsense online. Oh, do you not believe that the oil industry insiders basically run our economy? Look at everything around you that is now made from oil. Gee, I wonder who forced things to go that route, eh? Yeah, you can bet that the oil industry and its titantically wealthy insiders will watch the oil price plummet with new supplies, or see its monopoly undercut by new technology and materials that they don't control. How naive are people? Oil is what, a 9 trillion dollar a year business? Get smart already! They create monopolies which thrive on artificial scarcity--the history of the oil business IS THE CREATION OF MONOPOLIES AND ARTIFICIAL SCARCITY!

The US Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates, has shown no sign of doing so, and will do nothing but lower rates and print until the dollar is no more. The US Dollar is being intentionally destroyed. Its pretty obvious that that's the plan too. Why? To create an pliant, bankrupt middle class that will gladly accept the new North American currency, the Amero, as the North American Union comes straight down our throats. People generally prefer eating to starving. And hey, when they make a new country, they get to write a new Constitution, don't they?

Yes they do! On that you can bank.

anon said at March 13, 2008 9:54 PM:

If electricity was dynamically priced, price fluctuations would be arbitraged by those market participants who could shift their demand or supply at least cost; among other things, this would remove the need for expensive peak-load plants and make solar and wind energy much more practical. Plug-in hybrids are probably not least-cost shifters, so whether they're charged during the night or early morning is comparatively unimportant.

Engineer-Poet said at March 14, 2008 8:13 AM:

If oil is produced everywhere, Mr. Jump-Crank, explain a few things:

  1. Why are energy-poor countries like Japan not using this knowledge?
  2. Why isn't oil seeping out of every crack and fault in the earth?
  3. Why have entire oil-producing regions, from Pennsylvania and East Texas to the North Sea, had their production fall and even cease?
I will bet a pitcher of beer that you can't offer any response except obfuscation and/or flames.

Brett Bellmore writes:

The real obstacle to home charging of electric cars, I would think, is the capacity of the current residential power grid.
I'm inclined to doubt this.  A system designed to meet afternoon peak A/C demands, which occur at the hour of highest temperature, is going to have plenty of spare capacity in the wee hours of the morning.  The capacity of the transformers will also be greater because cooler air will improve their heat dissipation.  At some level of penetration of full EVs the system may need upgrades, but the higher utilization will bring cost per kWh down.

Jump said at March 14, 2008 11:33 AM:

Hey Engineer Poet:

Oil doesn't have to seep out of every crack in the earth to be highly abundant. Answer my Point about the C12/C13 ratio, which is common knowledge, and why it has never been addressed. Also look up Gull Island in on the North Slope of Alaska, or the huge amounts of oil discovered in the Dakotas in the 70's that has never been tapped.

Oil producing regions have seen their oil production decline because the big oil companies want them to decline. You've been lied to that the declines are due to resource shortage, and not cutbacks in production. Learn about the oil industry and how, throughout their ENTIRE history, they have schemed and succeded in creating output quotas and shortages, and formed monopolies or oligopolies.

Japan is a puppet of the US, and has been since the end of WW II. Unconditional surrender, remember? They do nothing we don't want them to do. They don't even have an army, for crying out loud!

Contrary to not me not answering the question, you didn't answer mine! Give me some info on the why the Peak Oil propagandists dismiss the abiotic oil thesis without discussing the easy way to determine if oil is really a fossil fuel using the C12/C13 ratio. That's real science, not the antique 17th-18th century geological hypotheses (fossil fuels) that are propagated as truth by these same oil companies.

Research the North Slope of Alaska, find out about the Gull Island discoveries. Find out how the IMF and World Bank are involved in the distrubution of oil sales, and who gets them. Find out about the 7 sisters (now 4) that dominate the oil markets, find out about the Texas Railroad Commission, why it was formed, how it served as the model for OPEC. Find out about how Standard Oil decided to monopolize the refinery business to choke off the production of oil and drive up prices, and how in the last 15 to 20 years, the big oil companies have bought up the refineries in the US and closed down all the excess capacity in order to drive gas prices higher. Find out about how the big oil families started the environmental movement, and have shut down areas for exploration from offshore sources on the east coast, Florida, California, Alaska, and huge swaths of land in the western US (and all around the world). You're just too lazy to do the research!

Poor babies! I guess the Holy Roman Catholic Church of "Peak Oil" has spoken, and its cowering believers just spout old dogma in the face of reality! Do some homework! Get a plug and recharge your brain already! You are being scammed and misrepresenting the truth whoever listens to you! Challenge your ignorance like a adult man. Be humble enough to admit you are wrong when the evidence proves it.

Engineer-Poet said at March 14, 2008 7:16 PM:
Answer my Point about the C12/C13 ratio, which is common knowledge, and why it has never been addressed.
Perhaps you might reconsider your position, because here's the common knowledge:
Similarly, carbon in inorganic carbonates shows little isotopic fractionation, while carbon in materials originated by photosynthesis is depleted of the heavier isotopes....

... calcite found in salt domes originates from carbon dioxide formed by oxidation of petroleum, which due to its plant origin is 13C-depleted.

You have probably been spending too much time reading certain Russian cranks.  Note that it would be in the interests of Russia (as well as Saudi Arabia) for many people to believe that petroleum will remain abundant, because the longer the world delays its efforts to convert to non-petroleum energy supplies, the more money they can extract for their exports and the weaker the other economies will be relative to theirs.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  You've got no evidence.  I suggest you fix that.

Randall Parker said at March 14, 2008 7:46 PM:


Long comments with no references to information sources for extraordinary claims are not persuasive.

Telling other people to do research that proves your assertions is an obnoxious form of laziness.

Jump said at March 15, 2008 7:09 PM:

Whole books have been written about the oil industry--from Rockefeller's monopolization (Tarbell) to Yergin's "The Prize". Its just a short blog post--I'm not going to cut and paste huge chunks of books on a blog. That's not being obnoxious, its being intelligent. If I make a point about how the oil industry has created schemes to suppress production, like Standard Oil's monopolization of the refinery business, the Texas Railroad Commission, or OPEC, its an historical fact. If you don't know about that, there's plenty of ways to find out. Its not my job to educate you, its my job to disagree with you. That's a big difference. Its hard to have a debate when only one side know the score. You guys are the ones propagating a lie. I know both sides of the argument, and I also know which one makes sense. If you don't, well, time to look at the facts again, or for the first time, whatever the case may be. Neither one of you made any dent in my arguments.

I've been spending a lot of time with "Peak Oil" cranks, and I used to believe in it after I read disinfo sites like and What changed my mind was when the space probe Cassini found hydrocarbon lakes on Jupiter's moon Titan. Then it became clear that hydrocarbons don't just come from decaying fossils. P.S., the russian scientists you mention are quite credible, and no one has disproved their equations or processes. "Fossil Fuelists" just say that it doesn't happen that way--without proof, of course.

Its nice that you pointed to the Wikipedia page (great, reliable source). Unfortunately for you, it completely VALIDATES my point that a C12/C13 ratio test of oil samples would show that the C12/C13 ratio should be much higher if oil comes from decayed plants than if it comes abiotically. I don't know why you are making my arguments for me. It makes my job easy, and you look like you don't know what you are talking about.

The point is that not one of you guys spouting the "Peak Oil" nonsense (and it is nonsense) has any data to back up your assertions independent of the oil industry. YOU HAVE NO WAY TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY YOUR ASSERTIONS! THAT'S NOT SCIENCE GUYS! You are relying on the same group for information that has ALWAYS colluded to create artficial scarcity and oligopolzation for huge profits and control. "Peak Oil" is yet another scam to gouge us all, and create a resource hysteria, just like the "Global Warming" scam (same folks propagating that one too).

Randall Parker said at March 15, 2008 8:33 PM:


I know what the TRC did, how OPEC has operated at various points in time, what Rockefeller did with oil refineries, etc. What is the relevance? Sure, they try to keep up prices. But they do not always manage to do so. You again are posing like you know what you are talking about. But it is just a pose.

Sources of information and peak oil: Actually, the oil companies have been very reluctant to admit to Peak Oil and have been very late to the game. The oil companies do not want us to think we are hitting Peak Oil because once that becomes widely known there'll be a big stampede to develop alternatives. That'll lower prices. So your theory of what the oil companies are doing is inconsistent with their economic incentives.

Engineer-Poet said at March 16, 2008 12:07 PM:

Jump-crank, you have made a number of assertions without any hint of supporting evidence; you quote none and link to none.  I have already shown you that your claim about the carbon isotope ratio of petroleum is wrong (I gave Wikipedia because epitomizes "common knowledge").  Here are a few more of your claims:

  • oil business has been all about creating artificial scarcity because there is WAY too much of the stuff all around the world, and there always has been.
  • look up Gull Island in on the North Slope of Alaska, or the huge amounts of oil discovered in the Dakotas in the 70's that has never been tapped.
  • Oil producing regions have seen their oil production decline because the big oil companies want them to decline.

If you want to characterize The Oil Drum as a "disinformation site", that's your opinion.  However, the Google Earth images of the sudden drilling spurt in Ghawar aren't easily dismissed.  Neither are the falling oil production of both the British and Norwegian North Sea, Cantarell, and the switch of both the UK and Indonesia from oil exporters to oil importers (with the political trouble this creates).

You made a claim about oil production declining because the big companies want it to.  Tell you what:  I'll bet you $10,000 that I can prove that US producers went all-out to arrest the decline, and couldn't.

Jump said at March 16, 2008 7:25 PM:

Where do you guys get all the oil field data? If its not from the oil companies themselves, then where does it come from? There really is no independent source of oil production info. That means that there is no way to verify the "Peak Oil" scam independent of info provided by the big oil companies.

Again, the Wikipedia article cited proves that there is a difference between the C12/C13 ratio of naturally occuriing carbon and that found in organic matter. That proves my point, not yours, and that if oil sources are really abiotic it should be easy to tell by taking tests of that exact ratio. I always get a big laugh when they talk about "source rocks", as if the oil comes from the rock itself. Whatever. In time you will come to agree with me.

Hey, if oil comes from fossils, then why has this process never been able to be replicated in a lab, whereas the abiotic theory can be replicated in the lab? Its real simple--create crude from organic matter in the lab. Can't and has never been done.

What are you going to quote to refute me--rig counts? More drilling in Ghawar? I don't give a crap about Ghawar, or any other existing field, because saying that existing oil fields are depleting has nothing to do with whether or not oil is abiotic, nor does a declining field explain why oil companies are not investing in more exploration, or why huge tracts of land with gigantic reserves are off limits in an oil crisis. Of course existing fields are developed and then decline. That says nothing about why oil exploration fell off a table by major producers, or why the oil companies are funding the same groups that are fighting to put more and more land off limits to drilling. Odd, huh?

Again, the ENTIRE history of the oil industry is one of creating artificial scarcity. Low oil prices are created for political reasons (i.e. bankrupting the Soviet Union). Outside of that, its all about conosolidation and control.

You want sources to jingle your neurons? Here are some sources:

There's lots more oil on the North Slope of Alaska than you're hearing about from (still think Lindsey Williams is a nutjob?):

Check this out to see what an itsy bitsy piece of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska has actually been explored (and even less has been developed). And keep in mind, Prudoe Bay was discovered in 1968. For 40 years, there's been very little activity in the North Slope outside of Prudhoe Bay--why?:

And hydrocarbons do not come from fossils:

Engineer-Poet said at March 21, 2008 8:44 PM:

Watching your referral logs, eh RP?

Jump, if you weren't so obviously serious (and thus likely insane), you'd be a comedian.  The conditions which make hydrocarbons on Titan (photolysis of methane) don't exist on Earth.  Likewise, the photosynthesis and geological conditions which make petroleum on Earth don't exist on Titan.

Engineer-Poet said at March 27, 2008 9:34 PM:

Just in case Jump comes back... I'm no longer watching this thread, so any challenges you make don't imply victory by default.

toes said at July 20, 2008 1:51 PM:

I am just a 70 years old geeze so tx all for your contributions to the unsustainable Social Security... Medicare... etc benefits that you wont be able to afford at some time in the future. As my mind goes into the ether, I opine that it doesnt seem like a big deal to produce electricity from nuclear... then charge electric/hybrid cars. I have no idea by what percentage gas use can be cut back but I would think it is substantial. You techies can work out the details.

Jim said at September 9, 2008 7:02 AM:

Well As one old Geeze to another! Consider this! Aptera (silicone valley wiz kids) clains too have technology to produce a diesel electric car that will get 300 to 350 mpg. This is old tecnology (Locomotives.) So why do all the large car makers shy away from it?........... PROFITS! Not enough redundant sales!
With very little adaptation you can make golf carts run with this low tech process. My new hot rod golf cart is on the way, by the way!
Where I live most of us old geezers ride to the coffee shop on these!

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