Study Predicts at Least 5 Million Electric Vehicles by 2035


  • 2013 Nissan Leaf Picture

    2013 Nissan Leaf Picture

    The Nissan Leaf will have lots of company on the road by 2035, according to a new study. | April 24, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • A new study predicts that by 2035 at least 5 million cars and light trucks will be powered by electricity.
  • The study says that figure could be as high as 30.4 million, depending on technology advances, the price of oil, and other factors.
  • The study's most aggressive prediction envisions just 12 percent of light duty vehicles being powered by electricity in 2035.

WASHINGTON — A new study predicts that by 2035 at least 5 million cars and light trucks will be powered by electricity, and that figure could be as high as 30 million, depending on technology advances, the price of oil, and other factors.

The study, conducted by IEE, an institute of the Edison Foundation that focuses on Innovation, Electricity, and Efficiency, came up with three scenarios to forecast the future of light duty vehicles (LDVs) propelled by either all-electric power or plug-in hybrid systems.

The most conservative view assumes modest increases in the cost of oil, and therefore moderate demand on the part of consumers. It predicts that by 2035 about 5 million, or 2 percent, of LDVs will be driven by electricity.

The medium scenario assumes greater advances in battery technology and lower price tags on both batteries and the vehicles themselves. If that prediction comes true, the study says to expect 24.8 million LDVs, or about 10 percent of the total, to rely on electric power in 2035.

The most aggressive scenario put forth by IEE predicts as many as 30.4 million electric LDVs on the road in 2035, about 12 percent of the total. This version assumes considerable increases in oil prices, up to $200 per barrel, coupled with advances in battery technology and reduced overall costs.

Any of these scenarios would be quite a jump from the estimated 90,000 electric LDVs currently on the road.

On the IEE Web site the study's co-author, Lisa Wood Ph.D., said: "Opportunities for electrification in the transportation sector are large, and advanced batteries are a major driver. Electric transportation makes economic and environmental sense."

With LDVs accounting for about 60 percent of greenhouse gasses emitted in the transportation sector, the benefits to the environment could be significant.

In the medium scenario, for instance, the switch to electric LDVs could reduce emissions by 41 to 94 million metric tons of CO2 in 2035. Using the midpoint as an example, the study points out that "a reduction of 68 MMT is comparable to the emissions from the electricity used annually in 10.2 million homes, or reducing gasoline consumption by 7.6 billion gallons."

It's interesting that even in the most aggressive scenario the IEE study forecasts that only 12 percent of LDVs on the road would be powered by electricity, which raises the question, What about the rest of them?

An MIT study predicted that fuel savings of as much 50 percent could be realized in 30 years by a combination of improved internal combustion engines, gasoline hybrids, and plug-ins, and reductions in vehicle weight and drag. These advances, combined with alternative fuels, could also be expected to result in significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The MIT study concluded: "No single technology development or alternative fuel can solve the problems of growing transportation fuel use and GHG emissions. Progress must come from a comprehensive, coordinated effort to develop and market more efficient vehicles and benign fuels, and to find more sustainable ways to satisfy transportation demands."

Edmunds says: Despite some big numbers being thrown around by this latest study, it seems prudent not to give up on the internal-combustion engine just yet.

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