these guys, it’s their work tool. They know what they use in fuel, while most consumers really don’t.”
The case for electric vehicles can’t be all about fuel, Dr. Smyth said. “If the price of fuel were high, certainly that would make it easy for us,” he said. “But we have to go through this transformation, and we don’t have a choice.” We’re pulling 85 million barrels of oil out of the ground every day.” Oil in 2030 is projected to cost $105 or $110 a barrel, “and that is even with the current recession,” he said.
The U.S. must diversify from petroleum, Dr. Smyth said. Currently, it is more 95 percent dependent on oil. “We must come up with low-carbon alternatives.” Cellulose ethanol offers potential carbon savings of around 50 percent over petroleum with advanced internal combustion engines. “There aren’t any 80 percent reductions out there,” he said. “We really have to look at developing alternatives and developing them rapidly if we want to drive down CO2. We have to stay on this path, and that is why we have to be working with the government to make sure this is a success.”
Dr. Good asked if anyone has made a serious attempt to model the entire system. “Let’s assume you can get 30 percent electric vehicles in 20 years,” she said. “Does anyone have a model of what the grid would have to look like?
Mr. Van Amburg said he has seen good models developed by utilities. “If you are shifting your charging to night-time, and you are using off-peak energy during that trough, it doesn’t have that much impact on the overall production of the grid,” he said. “The biggest issue is deploying individual vehicles on the grid because of the potential draw you are getting if you had a whole bunch of electric vehicles in one neighborhood. But based on the models I’ve seen, it wouldn’t necessary make us get into a lot more production of electricity,” he said.
Electric vehicle penetration of 5 percent is a very different problem than 25 percent, Dr. Good noted. “I don’t think people have really run the right models yet. Even if I run off peak, I have to use more fuel to run the electricity. If I look around the country today, there are areas that have some extra capacity. But there isn’t that much extra capacity running loose. I don’t know that we have actually made a good model, and it seems we ought to do that fairly soon so we have answers to people about how we are going to provide that electricity. If you are trying to rev this up to 25 percent in the next 10 years, you had better get on that problem now.”
It will be a very long time before 25 percent of cars are electric, simply because of the rate at which vehicles in use turn over, Dr. Sperling replied. “That is a long, long way off, and we do have models on that.”
A more critical issue is the effect on local transformers, he said. “You have that neighborhood clustering effect that can be very disruptive,” Dr. Sperling said.