Full Title: The Future Of Electric Vehicles In The U.S.
Author(s): Jeffrey Rissman
Publisher(s): Energy Innovation Policy & Technology, LLC
Publication Date: 09/2017
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The transportation sector is a major energy consumer, accounting for roughly 29% of primary energy use in the United States. 80% of this energy is for on-road vehicles, which are predominantly powered by petroleum gasoline or diesel. Unfortunately, petroleum-powered vehicles have a number of downsides. They are inefficient: a typical gasoline car converts only 17%-21% of the chemical energy in the fuel into useful work. Petroleum fuels are expensive per unit energy compared to other fuels, and they would be even more so if the U.S. government did not subsidize oil production by more than $4 billion per year. They emit carbon dioxide (CO2), causing global warming. And vehicle emissions are the biggest contributor to particulate pollution: tiny particles that lodge in people’s lungs and kill 200,000 Americans each year.
Given their host of problems, petroleum-powered vehicles are ripe to be reformed, by making them far cleaner and more efficient, or, better, displaced. However, petroleum-powered vehicles are a mature technology, benefitting from decades of refinement and economies of scale that have driven down costs. It is not enough for a new technology to have the potential to be cheaper and better-performing than petroleum-powered vehicles. To compete effectively, electric vehicle technology must climb its own learning curve, driving down costs and improving performance, to the point where it is more attractive than petroleum-powered vehicles.