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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Impacts of Electric Vehicles on Primary Energy Consumption and Petroleum Displacement


We analyze the impact of the use of electric vehicles (EVs) on energy consumption in general and petroleum consumption in particular. The analysis is conducted for sub-compact cars, small vans, and large vans for the years 1995 and 2010. We compare per-mile primary energy consumption of EVs and gasoline internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), for each of four primary energy sources: petroleum, coal, natural gas, and biomass. When petroleum, natural gas, or biomass is the primary energy source, EVs with current technology will consume more energy per mile than ICEVs, but EVs with advanced technology will consume less. If coal is the primary energy source, both current-and advanced-technology EVs will consume less energy per mile than ICEVs. We find that the magnitude of petroleum displacement by EVs depends mainly on the amount of petroleum used for electricity generation. In many areas of the U.S., EVs will reduce per-mile petroleum use by over 90%, because the vast majority of electricity is generated from non-petroleum fuels. In areas where a relatively large portion of electricity is generated from petroleum (such as New York), EVs will reduce per-mile petroleum use by 65%.

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