April 04, 2010
Electric Power Costs For Electric Cars

An article on the Technology News World site puts expected electric power demand of electric cars in perspective.

Owners are likely to pay a premium to purchase electric cars, and they will immediately become one of the top electricity consumers in their homes -- in some cases, more than the summertime power draw of the air conditioner and water heater combined, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-funded organization.

The upcoming Chevy Volt, for instance, is expected to increase the energy draw of the average U.S. home by 13 percent. The Nissan Leaf comes in at 19 percent, according to EPRI, which didn't provide figures for the Focus.

That would come to an annual cost of between US$190 and $278 to consumers. That compares to $151 to run a refrigerator for the year or $228 to run the air conditioner, according to EPRI figures.

Owners are likely to pay a premium to purchase electric cars, and they will immediately become one of the top electricity consumers in their homes -- in some cases, more than the summertime power draw of the air conditioner and water heater combined, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-funded organization.

The upcoming Chevy Volt, for instance, is expected to increase the energy draw of the average U.S. home by 13 percent. The Nissan Leaf comes in at 19 percent, according to EPRI, which didn't provide figures for the Focus.

That would come to an annual cost of between US$190 and $278 to consumers. That compares to $151 to run a refrigerator for the year or $228 to run the air conditioner, according to EPRI figures.

An electric cars is comparable to an air conditioner for annual costs? I wouldn't have expected that. A boost in home electric power demand by 13% to 19% seems manageable.

Are the numbers above realistic? Lets check. Suppose an EV uses 250 watt-hours per mile (equivalent to 25 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles for the Chevy Volt). Also suppose the electricity costs 11.55 cents per kilowatt-hour (US retail residential average cost for 2009). That's a cost of about $28.88 per 1000 miles. If you drive 12,000 miles per year on electric power then your yearly cost would be $346.50. That's certainly in the ballpark. Affordable too. All we need are cheaper batteries and the suburban lifestyle can survive Peak Oil (much to the chagrin of those who hate suburbs and want us all to crowd into city apartment high rises - ugh).

I see EVs as especially practical for couples who have 2 or 3 cars. One of them can use an EV for commuting and still have a longer range, larger, and more flexible gasoline-powered pick-up or SUV for longer trips or when hauling stuff from a hardware store. Or one can get a pluggable hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) like the Chevy Volt. Then shorter distance trips will use electric power and longer distance trips will use gasoline.

If you happen to live in a high electric price area like Connecticut (20.36 cents per kwh) then your costs will be over $600 per year to power your electric car. Not such a good deal.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 April 04 02:13 PM  Energy Electric Cars


Comments
xxd said at April 4, 2010 3:01 PM:

The original suburbs were enabled by electric streetcars.
"A streetcar named desire" for example.
Peak oil won't kill that model.
What it *may* do is kill Mr F150 driving 90 miles each way from east palo alto to mountainview.

But the suburbs are not dead. No matter what Kunstler or certain Russian hacks who hate the US say.

Brett Bellmore said at April 4, 2010 5:06 PM:

Instead of hybrids, why not generator trailers to plug into your straight electric car, for long trips? I don't see why you'd want to drag the gas tank and generator around when you weren't using it. Unless it's just a matter of those occasions when you decide in mid-trip you need to go further. Maybe you could rent them at gas stations?

Randall Parker said at April 4, 2010 6:02 PM:

xxd,

90 miles from East Palo Alto to Mountain View? Try 7.7 miles.

Brett,

I'd rather not pull a trailer on trips. Why not just rent a car rather than rent a trailer? You could get a 50 mpg Prius.

How often do you travel more than 100 miles per day?

Fat Man said at April 4, 2010 7:31 PM:

The Leaf will have an MSRP of about $33K. It is built on the same platform as the Versa, which has an MSRP of about 1/3rd of that. If electricity is free, it will still be more expensive to drive the Leaf than the Versa.

xxd said at April 4, 2010 8:38 PM:

Randall,

You got me.
I used that particular example because when I visited the mountainview office of my company, there was a guy who commuted 90 miles each way. His commute was so extreme it stuck in my mind.
I was fairly sure he said he lived in east palo alto but it seems not.

Nevertheless.. the point still stands.

The suburbs are not dead, but the days of driving 90 miles each way to get to work in a large gas guzzler are numbered.

xxd said at April 4, 2010 8:48 PM:

Fat Man:
If we take the average miles driven in a year in the US (15,000) and we divide that by the highway mpg of the versa (35mpg) we get 428 gallons a year.

Now let's assume that gasoline is AVAILABLE post peak oil.
What is it's price? Certainly not two some bucks a gallon.
It's likely going to be at LEAST five bucks a gallon and more likely higher than what the Europeans pay now.
At five bucks a gallon we have $2140 per year which gives roughly a ten year payback (assuming it doesn't rise above five bucks a gallon, which is unlikely since post peak, there will be less and less gasoline available each year).
At ten bucks a gallon (slightly more than the Euro's pay ($8 right now)) we have a payback of five years.

Now the most important question you have to ask yourself is this:
How much is it worth to you to still be able to drive if there are actual shortages of gasoline?

JoeKing said at April 4, 2010 9:27 PM:

Just to set the record straight...

The actual cost of running (the largest 29 cu. ft.) refrigerator is 616 kwh ($69/yr) http://products.geappliances.com/MarketingObjectRetrieval/Dispatcher?RequestType=PDF&Name=197D8121P041%2000.pdf


Room air-conditioners use about 765kwh/yr ($86/yr).

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/procurement/eep_room_aircon.html

If these vehicles are going to stand on their own ROI's, perhaps using fewer easily falsifiable claims might be a good place to start.

Brett Bellmore said at April 5, 2010 3:04 AM:

"I'd rather not pull a trailer on trips. Why not just rent a car rather than rent a trailer? You could get a 50 mpg Prius."

Why would you want to change cars, just to go on a longer trip? Suddenly have to hunt up a car rental place if you get a call that takes you out of your way? Rent a car if you find you can't get a charge to get home? Some people chose their vehicles for practicality, some to make "statements"; EVs are more the latter's choice than the former's right now, but if they really become practical and catch on, practicality will be a consideration.

"How often do you travel more than 100 miles per day?"

Maybe every couple of months. I've got a 2 mile commute, once I get my stamina back, I'll be biking to work.

Before I had to follow work out of state, it was every weekend, to visit my elderly mother, though.

Among the cows in Iowa said at April 5, 2010 7:30 AM:

$278 is only gallons of gas at today's prices. $278 only bought 60 gallons or so at the 2008 peak.

xxd said at April 5, 2010 9:40 AM:

Brett,

"Why would you want to change cars, just to go on a longer trip?"
In Europe, people already change their mode of transport to go on longer trips.
For example, due to gas prices being relatively cheap, it's not uncommon for people to "take a call" that "requires" them to drive four hundred miles round trip on a weekend.
When younger, we used to regularly drive to New York City (an eight hour trip) on a friday and come back on the monday. In Europe, in such a scenario, people would probably choose to fly or take the train or NOT GO because gas prices are significantly higher than here.

What you are describing as "requirements" are really lifestyle choices, not requirements.

The Leaf is not a "roadtrip" vehicle. It's a commuter vehicle. The scenario you proposed where you would have to change vehicles because you ran out of charge out of the city would just never happen.

I suspect that post peak a lot of road trips which would be easy today will never happen either or be by a different means of transportation.

Brett Bellmore said at April 5, 2010 4:34 PM:

And I suspect that, once you have pure electric vehicles which are affordable, generator trailers for road trips will find a ready market. Perhaps as an after-market item, like pop up trailers. We'll see.

Wolf-Dog said at April 5, 2010 10:36 PM:

The Better Place company has adopted the business model of combining the cost of electricity with the long term cost of using the electric battery, meaning that in this new business model electric cars will be sold separately from the swappable battery, and the electric company will rent the battery to the drivers. This means that a more realistic way of calculating the cost of using the electric car is to find out the annual cost of using the battery (price of the battery divided by the number of years the battery can be used), and then to add the annual cost of electricity.

Better Place claims that selling the electric car without battery and renting the battery to drivers is a realistic business model.

In this paradigm, let us note the following:

1) It is expected that an electric car without battery can be sold for as low as $15,000.

2) Such an electric car without battery would last many decades, probably as much as 40 years because it would have very few moving parts, no transmission, no complicated cooling systems, no engine oil, no exhaust pipe, etc.

3) In addition, a pure electric car would NOT have the hidden operating costs of an internal combustion engine based car.

Combining 1), 2), and 3) above, even before the batteries become much cheaper, electric cars can be practical, provided that we put charging pods in every street, and build enough battery swapping stations.

http://www.betterplace.com/

In any case, it appears that expanding the electric grid only by 20 % within the next two decades is feasible, and so the adoption of electric cars is guaranteed.

dc said at April 7, 2010 1:00 PM:

Electric cars won't require much if any expanding electric grid because they are usually charged during off-peak hours when there is large surplus capacity throughout the system, surplus capacity going to waste. Electric companies can even easily offer discounted usage for off-peak, similar to per-minute cell-phone plans.

Big Coward said at June 3, 2010 7:41 PM:

OK, the mythical plugs are installed everywhere and renters can drive these cars without a welding generator in the trunk. (I'm skeptical about employers taking on the cost of installing the plugs even if coin operated) Now, electricity use jumps the 20 percent. Most of the time the grid will handle it, but wait until a nice summer hot spell. During hot spells as of now, the grid is strained to the limit already. And during a hot spell, the A/C is still going full blast trying to cool houses that it couldn't handle during the day. So, there's no (or not enough of) "off-peak" during hot spells. Plug in the cars, and *POOF* a big blackout and a lot of people calling in saying they can't get to work.

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