This is the third in a six part series.
Guest post by Rud Istvan,
The second SoCalEd component to its roadmap to decarbonization by 2045 is 75% vehicle electrification.
Thanks to the California DMV annual registration database, we can learn what that implies. There were in 2018 about 25.6 million registered automobiles, 5.3 million non-CVRA trucks (pickups, delivery vans), 0.5 million CVRA trucks (Class 7-8 diesels), and 1.8 million ‘Foreign IRP’ trucks (CVRA licensed in another state but also registered to operate in California). The total is about 33.2 million vehicles excluding trailers and motorcycles. Since it is impossible (despite Elon Musk’s TESLA fantasies) for working pickups and big trucks to be meaningfully electrified with foreseeable battery technology, the SoCalEd roadmap implicitly means virtually all automobiles (25.6/33.2=>77%) will be full electric in 2045.
That virtue signaling ‘vision’ has three highly improbable implications. First and foremost is the vehicle cost to California consumers. Second is the impact on the California grid. Third is the impact on lithium ion battery materials.
Edmunds has the actual average 2019 US car price at about $37,000. That probably is also about correct for California. Lets compare California’s famous new common man’s electric vehicle, the TESLA Model 3. The current starting list price for the basic Model 3 is ‘only’ $39,900 (although Tesla is presently not filling any of those orders). Edmunds also notes this is lower than all other comparable electric vehicles today—even though you cannot buy one today.
But only IF the color you want is black, like Henry Ford’s Model T. IF you want a color other than black, the upcharge is $1500-$2500 depending on the color.
Now if you want a Model 3 with reasonable amenities (‘midrange’ per Edmunds) the price is about $44,000. And if you want the Edmunds recommended ‘loaded’ Model 3 (meaning with an extended range battery giving 50 more miles per charge) the price is about $57,000. Kelley Blue Book reports the present actual Model 3 price is about $50,000, so about half midrange and half loaded.
That means that SoCalEd plans ALL California car buyers to be willing and able to shell out about (50-37) $13,000 more per car. Probably not going to happen unless California makes it illegal to operate non-electrified vehicles. They may be crazy enough to try it.
California’s duck curve illustrates the intractable grid problem.
The duck curve is simply the comparison between generation and demand. Renewable generation peaks mid-day thanks to California solar, while demand peaks in the early evening as people return home, crank up the AC, and cook dinner. It is called a duck curve because it always was and always will be shaped like a duck waddling to the right as the day progresses.
That is an electrified vehicle problem that SoCalEd cannot solve by decarbonizing electricity (post two in the series). Cars take people to work and shopping during the day. Electrified vehicles will mostly be recharged at night while their owners sleep, during ‘duckbill’ and ducktail’ time. All the expensive SoCalEd desert Ivanpah and equivalent solar capacity is useless for vehicle electrification.
And California nixed the Eagle Crest pumped storage project, the only realistic way to time shift its solar generation. (See essay California Dreaming at Climate Etc or in ebook Blowing Smoke for details.)
There is another big grid issue worth pointing out. There are large required upgrades to grid infrastructure to support the additional electrical loads of ~25 million electric cars. It is possible to range the magnitude of this problem. The average California household presently consumes about 6500 KWh per year, or about 18 KWh/day. The current Tesla Model 3 ‘fast charger’ (240V) uses about 17.2KWh per 50 miles of charge. So IF Californians only drove 50 miles per day (they don’t, it is more) then the grid infrastructure ONLY has to double by 2045. That is VERY unlikely.
More than 25 million electrified California vehicles mean one heck of a lot of lithium ion batteries. These require lithium. The automotive ones like Tesla also require cobalt for the cathodes. There just isn’t that much lithium and cobalt available, at least not without drastic price increases to utilize lower grade ores and brines. This is a subject much debated elsewhere. Since not an expert on minerals and mining, perhaps other WUWT folks can contribute more information on this last point.