Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cost of converting entire U.S. to electric cars? Zero.

How much would it cost to convert the entire U.S. fleet of passenger cars, which collectively burn 40 percent of the oil that we use, to electric cars? Let’s look at some numbers:

* total oil consumption in the U.S.: 21 million barrels every day (CIA Factbook)
* cost per barrel: $130
* days in year: 365
* total spent per year: $1 trillion
* percentage of oil consumed by passenger cars: 40
* total spent per year on oil for passenger cars: $400 billion [refining into gasoline, distributing, and retailing add even more to this]
* at 5 interest, how much we could we borrow and pay $400 billion every year in interest: $8 trillion
* number of registered cars in the U.S.: 250 million (Wikipedia)
* cost of a new electric car, if mass-produced: $20,000
* value of a used car, if exported to Latin America or China: $5,000
* cost to upgrade average existing American car to a brand-new electric car: $15,000
* number that could be converted for $8 trillion: more than 500 million cars (i.e., twice as many as we have now)

Instead of sending $400 billion each year to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, we could spend it on electric car production in the U.S., Mexico, and China. At current oil prices, it wouldn’t cost us a dime extra to stop importing and burning oil for passenger cars. In fact, if the goal were to end up with the same number of cars on the road, we would have a few trillion dollars left over. One or two trillion dollars would be sufficient to build nuclear, solar, or wind electric power plants to replace all of our plants that currently burn coal and oil (note that less than 1 percent of current electricity generation in the U.S. is from oil (source); most electricity that we use today is from coal, natural gas, or nuclear).

So… simply by stopping our purchases of oil we could finance the construction of power plants that emit no CO2 and electric cars that emit no CO2.

From Philip Greenspun at Harvard.

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