Why transportation is the energy market you’ve never thought of

A 1% shift in energy demand in transportation can tip the US economy into recession

Back in 2011 I published an analysis with Prof. Carey King at UT Austin looking at the impact of the use of automotive fuels on the US economy. As we were digging ourselves out of the 2008 market catastrophe, we were trying to understand how and why oil prices spiked, and what it meant for the economy overall.

One piece of our analysis shocked me. The world is very sensitive to an oil production cap associated with global refinery production. As demand squeezes production limitations, the price for oil spikes, and in some cases that is enough to crush the national economies. There appeared to be very little tolerance for error, +/- 1%, in the undersupply constraint globally.

In contrast, for every electric vehicle on the road, it can displace hundreds of gallons of gasoline. A vehicle achieving 20 mpg and driving 12,000 miles per year will consume 600 gallons of gasoline. An EV attaining 3 miles per kWh will consume 4,000 kWh.

There is a direct relationship – 600 gallons of gasoline becomes 4 MWh of variable utility demand.

Let’s scale that. 600 gal per 4 MWh = for every MWh of utlity load transferred to EVs, 150 gallons of gasoline are saved annually.

This means two things. It is depressing for the oil & gas sector. For the utility sector, it is both exciting and terrifying. EVs are enormously transformative to the energy mix. The petroleum refined products into fuels sector represents 40 quadrillion BTU of energy. If it were all transferred to electricity, it would represent 11.7 billion MWh or 11.7 million GWh or 11,700 TWh. For reference, the US has approximately 1 TW of generating capacity. If these generators were on all year, this would be 8760 TWh. We would need to add another 1.3 electric grids to the US to support transportation. More if it was not operating at 100% capacity factor.


Filling up your gas tank is like having a 2 MW power station in your hand

Look at it this way… a Tesla P100D is a 100 kWh battery.

You fill up your gas tank in about 3 minutes (0.05 hr).

If you could achieve the same speed with your gas pump, your charger would be rated at 100 kWh / 0.05 hr = 2000 kW or 2 MW.

This has other ramifications. Your normal gas station has ~10 or so gas pumps, and they are often operating simultaneously. AT today’s best charging time of 30 minutes (~50 kW) , that is still a half megawatt load for a “gas station”.

For large gas stations, there is likely no way that the existing distribution infrastructure can support that load. There is an argument to add storage on site, and buffer the EV load with a trickle charge from the grid.

That demonstrates how EVs drive demand for energy storage even more.

Davion Hill
Energy Storage Leader — North America
DNV GL Energy

Davion Hill is organizing and leading the panel “Transportation: hitting the electric gas pedal” at the 2018 DNV GL Energy Executive Forum on May 17th. Register today to meet Davion at the Forum to continue the discussion. 

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