The ± Factors So you wanna be electrified?

So you wanna be electrified?

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ElectricityFollowing some preliminary studies of the market for electrical vehicles (EV) and the challenges that industry faces, I moved my focus to the industry making the same vehicles rolling: The power suppliers. An increase of the number of EVs will as a consequence create a need for more electric power, but how much power and how do we want to secure the production of that power?

Is this really a problem? Really..? At first it may not seem so, but since no one actually has presented even the slightest trace of studies of it, we do not know. And based on conversations I have had with leading roles in the power industry, they have not addressed these issues.

Gathering qualified information for this argumentation and the variables the information may present is a problem – which again may underscore the fact that no one has addressed these issues thoroughly. Although I from time to time will present figures from different years (but still only covering the years 2007 and 2008) these figures may give an indication of the enormous need for discussing how to secure future energy production with the transition to EVs.

For the sake of the argument, I have narrowed the discussion down to Sweden. Here goes.


Production and consumption today

Sweden’s total energy production was in 2007 about 150,000 gWh, which should imply that Sweden is self-sufficient with its energy consumption of 146,000 gWh/year. But Sweden is dependent on rain and snow for its production of a major part of their gigawatthours, the national production of electric power varies from 135,000 gWh/year to 160,000 gWh/year based on weather conditions. When drought occurs, Sweden has to import electricity.


The energy needed for ground transportation (private and commercial)

Thanks to Wikimedia for providing free imagesAccording to the Swedish Petroleum Institute approximately 9,405 m³ gasoline and diesel is sold each year for transportation purposes. About 90% of this can be directed to private and commercial ground transportation . This boils down to an effective consumption of ca 8,464.5 m³ ordinary gas and diesel.

1 m³ fuel has in average an energy content equalling approximately 9,000 kWh. So every year ground transportation based on fossil fuels consumes approximately 76,185,000,000 kWh :  76,185 gWh/year. It may not seem so much, until you compare the energy consumption for ground transportation with the general energy consumption in Sweden which does not include ground transportation: 146,000 gWh/year.


The energy consumption in tomorrow’s ground transportation

It is only in the best of worlds we could make a clean cut and convert all ground transportation using fossil fuel into using electricity. But let us say that in 10 years time, our goal is to have 25% using electricity. 25% of 76,185 gWh/year is 19,046.25 gWh, so we would face a need for increase in production of almost 20,000 gWh.

But – it is not that easy because it is not that much. One of the leading power companies in Sweden – Vattenfall – says that electric vehicles only require 20% of the fossil fuel vehicle’s need for power. We are not there yet. With today’s technology the truth is more in the neighbourhood of 30%. For example if we compare the MINI E (an electric vehicle that requires around 1.4 kwh/10 km) with MINI One (a fossil fuel car that requires around 4.5 kwh/10 km) we end up with 31%. So for the sake of the argument, let us use 31% for further calculations. That would mean that the need for electric power covering 25% of today’s ground transportation need would be approximately 5,900 gWh/year.


So what is the problem?

5,900 gWh/year does not seem to be a substantial increase for a country as Sweden. The increase in consumption is just a few percent, going from 146,000 gWh to 151,900 gWh. But the actual challenge lies in the fact that this increase in production must have a guaranteed delivery attached to it, since we want to replace one functioning infra structure model based on a guaranteed power delivery with a new one with a power delivery that may seem more uncertain. This in a country where over 40 percent of the energy production is based on weather conditions. Remember: If Sweden experiences a drought and the water energy production is reduced with 15,000 gWh the country will have to import electricity. And since the neighbouring countries also will suffer from the same weather conditions, the power must be found elsewhere. But where?

As of today, 40% of all global electricity is produced with fossil fuel, and this could in fact mean that fossil fuel would be fuelling the non-fossil fuel infrastructure. Suddenly the good idea of making the world travel electric became a little more complex than it seemed.

So what are the alternatives for still being “climate smart” in Sweden? An increase of 6,000 gWh consumption the upcoming 10 years could, would or should imply one of the following alternatives for guaranteed delivery:

  • A new nuclear reactor at Ringhals (cost unknown, environmental effect unknown)
  • 25 new wind power parks with the size of Stor-Rotliden (approximately SEK 37.5 billion in investments, environmental effect unknown)
  • Buying imported electricity based on fossil fuels. (cost known, environmental effect known)
  • Other alternatives (feel free to suggest)

So how would you like to be electrified?


As always, feel free to check the comments or the sponsors for other opinions and join the discussion.

Or why not check out the TH!NK-text where I present a model of the future EV-production.