Do plug in hybrids mean we need increased baseload capacity?

Olivia Albrecht notes that “the United States imports oil at a rate of $400,000 a minute. It is estimated that by 2030, U.S. energy demands will increase by nearly two-thirds, and that by 2050, global energy demand will more than double. Americans must realize the necessity of finding a reliable energy supply in order to sustain economic growth and prosperity in the 21st century and to reduce the security, economic and political risks of U.S. dependence on foreign oil.” She rightly points out that “oil contributes only 2 percent of U.S. electricity [...] Yet analysts agree that as the price at the pump continues to grow, more global consumers will turn away from gas-fueled vehicles and toward alternative-power items to avoid the cost of oil.” And she raises a concern “Imagine if all car owners in the United State traded in their oil engines for electric cars: The drastic surge in electricity consumption could not be sustained by our current electric-output capability.” Not quite.

Actually, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) points out that there is enough reserve electric capacity in our grid, especially at night, that up to 30% of U.S. vehicles could be plug in hybrids before that capacity were exhausted. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to expand baseload capacity, but it does mean that we won’t need to do it in order to accomodate a shift to electricity as a transportation fuel. Since the length of road life of a vehicle in the U.S. is on average 16.8 years (hard to believe but true,) so transitioning 30% of the fleet will take some time.

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