Transportation Deployment Casebook/Battery Electric Vehicles


The following wikibook includes a life-cycle analysis of the electric vehicle with a primary focus on the batter electric vehicle (BEV), specifically. A general history of the electric vehicle and automobile at large, as well as quantitative analysis on the number of BEVs estimated in use in the United States in modern times (1990s-present), is presented herein.--Thornstar (discusscontribs) 03:18, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Life-cycle AnalysisEdit

If you plot the life-cycle of any major technological product, you will most likely see a curve that resembles the English letter "S". Just take a look at the second image from this article from the New York Times from 2008. The basic reasoning behind this phenomenon is that there is usually a rather slow, but increasing growth in adoption of a new technology at the beginning of its life-cycle, but one that is followed by rapid expansion and growth as the product becomes mass produced, or widely accepted, for instance. Then, later on, sometimes years, decades, possibly centuries later, something happens that triggers the decrease in the numbers of a product purchased. This could happen due to an infinite number of things, but it is likely because the market has reached saturation, or a new product has out-placed the old. Therefore, it is a common assumption (and somewhat accurate) that the life-cycle of a new technology will take on the shape of an S-curve. However, the trouble lies in predicting when and where the curves will take shape.

There are a number of techniques used to predict things about a certain technology if data has been collected or estimated. One can try to estimate when in time a product will reach certain points of market saturation, which can be very helpful for marketers, investors, business owners, and consumers alike. Of course, it is extremely difficult to predict anything such as market growth or adoption of a product to absolute certainty, but by using the proper techniques, and by being careful and rational with your assumptions, one can make fairly accurate predictions.

Making predictions about the life-cycle of any given technology is not easy, especially when trying to do so with a young technology that incidentally has little data in terms of its likely "lifetime" (i.e. Modern Battery Electric Vehicles, which have only been sold by major manufacturers as major production cars since around the year 2000, and have only seen major and promising growth since about 2008 with the production of the Tesla Roadster, Chevy Volt, and Nissan Leaf.) One needs to make assumptions about where the market saturation point will be, for instance, a relatively easy thing to do with some technologies. However, for estimating the life-cycle analysis of the BEV, one needs to decide if the saturation value is simply all of the vehicles registered on the roads being BEVs, 50% of the vehicles? 30%? 80? The answer is unclear. Will everyone adopt this environmentally cleaner technology over time, or will another technology come along that replaces it. Will more people choose to take public transit over owning their own vehicle as more and more people move into cities and incidentally closer to their office? No one is really sure. This is why multiple projections are typically made when trying to predict life-cycles for any technology, and why when trying to understand someones prediction it is best to make sure their assumptions seem logical to you.

There are a number or reasons to expect growth in the BEV sector, and there is considerable room for growth, considering BEVs probably make up less than 1% of all new vehicle sales in the United States as of the end of 2013. (Based on estimates from the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA)[1], which claim that roughly 100,000 BEV's were sold in 2013, and estimates from the United States Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics[2] that claim there were roughly 11.58 million new vehicle sales in the United States in 2010.)

Stages RevisitedEdit

As mentioned above, there are three primary, or common, stages in the life-cycle of a product; birth, growth, and maturity. Alone, these three stages have been known to come in all different types of shapes and sizes, but the big picture and the way they are defined remain the same. However, there is still more that can be said about a life-cycle. For instance, what if someone wanted to study the decline or "death" of a product. Here too there is a similar pattern. Often times, during the decline of a product, it will react similarily to how it grew in the first place. If you plot the death of a product, you will see a similar shape, the "s-curve", which can be analyzed in the exact same way as the growth s-curve.


These three stages are not cut-and-dry for every product by any means. Just look at the electric vehicle, which took off in the late 1800's around the exact same time that gasoline powered automobile, and steam automobiles were first invented. These three technologies competed for market dominance for 10 years or so until the gasoline powered vehicle began dominating, putting the electric vehicle and steam vehicle manufacturers eventually out of business. Yet, here we are in the 21st Century, seeing a resurgence in electric vehicle technology, awareness, and focus.

Thanks to modern technology, fuel dependence uncertainties, and big breakthroughs in battery tech, from companies like Tesla Motors, the BEV is beginning to see a resurgence in sales. It is highly likely that over the next few decades and into the future, electric vehicles will become a main competitor to internal combustion engine vehicles.



The electric vehicle is a subset of the automobile, which has been on of the most important technologies of the past century. Before the automobile, it took weeks, months, or even years for people to travel coast-to-coast in the United States.

A map showing how long it took to travel to various parts of the US in 1857, starting from NY city

Before the turn of the 19th century, when the automobile was becoming more affordable, people needed to board a train, or wagon to travel anywhere significantly, or they would have boarded an open-sea vessel or canal boat. Inherently, people did not have the freedom or accessibility to travel somewhere “on a whim”, the passengers were bounded by scheduling, and availability.

The invention of the automobile came in part from inventors taking technologies already used for trains, and boats, and applying it to a smaller, more personal surface vehicle. At first, the market was shared between electric, steam, and gasoline powered cars, and in 1896 there were more than one model of each type made. At the turn of the century the most popular car was the steam car, commonly known as, the “Locomobile”. “In 1899, there were 1,575 electric vehicles, 1,681 steam cars, and 936 gasoline cars sold,”[3] but, the electric vehicle was showing promise great promise. At the time, Thomas Edison promised that the problems associated with batteries poor ability to store energy was close to being solved. It was thought that the electric car was the most advanced car on the market, and in fact, an electric car was the first car to reach 100 km/h.[4]

The early electric car had certain qualities that made it more desirable than its gasoline and steam powered equivalents. For one, it didn’t require a hand crank to get it started, like the gasoline car did. This feature was said to make it more desirable for women drivers, because the hand cranks were not easy to operate. Plus, electric cars weren't as dirty as the steam or gas powered car, and they didn't have the smell, noise, or vibrations associated with them. The electric vehicle also didn't require difficult shifting maneuvers, which is often cited as being the most difficult part of driving the early automobiles. As for the range of the early vehicles, electric vehicles actually had longer ranges than steam-powered cars, because the steam cars would run out of water quickly, but gasoline powered cars could have large tanks, and refuel faster, giving them an advantage for longer trips. Another advantage that electric cars and gasoline powered cars had over steam cars was that they did not require long warm up times – the steam car would sometimes need to warm up for 45 minutes, depending on outdoor temperature.

Unfortunately for the electric vehicle manufacturers, inventions and upgrades to the gas powered cars caught up quickly, and in 1912, Charles Kettering invented the electric start, ultimately removing the need for a hand crank. The EV market edge did not last for very long. From 1899 to 1909, even though they saw a doubling of sales, their gasoline car competitors saw an increase of close to 120 times their 1899 sales. The success of the gasoline car, and comparable failure of the electric car is likely attributed to two things; cost and range. In 1900, electric vehicles were on average $1,000 more expensive than gasoline vehicles, mostly because gasoline vehicle manufacturers focused on mass production, lowering their costs, whereas the EV companies were focused on producing higher end, higher performance, and incidentally, higher priced cars. Gas car companies also spent money on marketing to the masses, while most of the big electric car companies were focused on vertical integration between inter-city street car systems.

By 1914, the biggest manufacturer of electric vehicles, Detroit Electric, was charging $2,850 for their standard four-seater, while the Ford town car was a mere $640, and the roadster was only $440. It is easy to see why the electric vehicle manufacturers didn't survive against the likes of Henry Ford with his mass production, low-cost vehicles. It is probably safe to assume that the gasoline powered vehicles were also more convenient, pricing aside. For instance, the average range of an electric vehicle in 1914 was roughly 55 miles, it's battery had a lifespan of just 6 months, and it took a much longer time to “re-fuel” compared to a gasoline powered car. Funny enough, the electric vehicle ranges of the 1914 are fairly similar to those of 2013, and even better in some cases (not considering Tesla Motors' Roadster or Model S, which can get 200 miles or better on average per charge). Of course, the batteries are of much higher quality in 2013, so they last longer than 6 months. Cars are also much heavier than they were back then.

The range played a key advantage for the gasoline vehicle in the 1920’s and continues to be a big factor today. As the highway system became more developed, and American cities became linked together across the country, it became feasible to drive farther distances, thus making the gasoline car that much more desirable. That, and the discovery of larger oil reserves in the southern United States, making gas more affordable and obtainable. [still proofreading and EDITING from here on out, January 10, 2013]

Since then, the gasoline powered car has remained dominant. Even early on, the numbers were staggering – In 1924, 381 electric vehicles produced in the United States, compared to the subtle 3,185,490 gasoline cars[5]. Up until 1999, there wasn’t any considerable amount of electric vehicles sold domestically, and even when considering hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), which sales started around 1999, the gasoline powered vehicle is still in much control. However, in recent times, since 1999, there has been a gradual increase in the number of sales of HEVs and plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), and their chunk of the percentage of total automobile sales has been growing along as well. At this point in history, the total number of automobile sales in the United States has more or less flat-lined, though, suggesting that the automobile is in the mature phase of its life-cycle. The total number “light vehicle” automobile sales was floating steadily around 17,000,000 from 1999-2007, and decreased to about 13,000,000 per year over the following 5 years,[6] but the percentage of those that are considered hybrid or plug-in electric is up to nearly 3%. There was a depression in the economy in 2008, so this would explain the drastic decrease, and the slight increase in previous years (2011-2013), but even so, as mentioned, it would seem that the automobile is mature in the United States. That times are changing, and there could be a shift to alternative fueled vehicles (AFVs), though, could mean that there is simply a new life-cycle appearing as a subset to the automobile. There could even be a reduction in sales year-over-year into the future, and a reduction in total number of vehicles on the road if sociological and economical changes incur.

Most of the issues that prevented the electric automobile from achieving mass market dominance over the internal combustion engine in the early 1900s are the same ones doing so today. The automobile was changing the lives of Americans, and people all over the world, in more ways than any other technology before it had ever done.

Advantages over Gasoline VehiclesEdit

Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on developing networks and technology to compliment the automobile, and much of our lives are clearly entrenched by them. However, if the population continues growing at an exponential rate, and we continue to rely on the same finite resources like oil to fuel our automobiles, we will be left immobilized with a bunch of useless scraps of metal. In order to prevent this, there will need to be a radical shift in driving habits, whether that be in the amount of driving we do, or in the types of vehicles we choose to do it in. Fortunately, there is no need to panic at this point, for there is currently no accurate prediction for when the world may run out of oil, and it’s very unlikely to happen in the next decade or so, but there are still issues surrounding the use of fossil fuels for energy. Most notably, there are environmental concerns with burning fossil fuels, there is a concern that the supply will run out, people think there is too much reliance on foreign nations, and an internal combustion engine is noisy relative to an electric engine.

The electric vehicle has the potential to help offset our global reliance on fossil fuels. Electric vehicles will also help individual nations become less dependence on the nations with the largest supplies of fossil fuels. And, electric vehicles can help offset the carbon footprint, but just as there are pros to the electric vehicle, there are cons, and tradeoffs that will occur. The success, the environmental impact of the EV depend on a number of variables.


Cities are dense, short range vehicles satisfy most driver’s needs according to reports, such as the one by[7]. Based on statistics from the National Household Travel Survey of 2009, Haaren concludes that 98% of urban trips and 95% of rural trips were under 50-miles. The study which was based on survey questions regarding trips taken, is a small sampling of the total trips nationwide, but nonetheless, it is probably a fairly good approximation. These stats seem to suggest that “range anxiety” shouldn’t be as big of a problem for electric cars as it seems. Average daily commutes was around 14 miles of those in the study, but people still need a long range vehicle for the yearly trip to grandma’s house. .

Gasoline is expensive, EVs can reduce the cost of driving. The price of gasoline fluctuates all the time, and there is not telling how expensive it will become further into the future. Electric vehicles, therefore, that don’t rely the supply and demand of fossil fuels can greatly reduce the operating costs associated with driving.


Range, currently the best EV gets a range of 200-300 miles per charge. As mentioned above, under ‘pros’, an electric vehicle with a range of 200 miles would suit the majority of Americans. The problem still arises when these families want to take a family vacation, or drive somewhere outside of this range. Charging infrastructure is currently insufficient for most trips, but even if there was sufficient infrastructure, people have the impression that charging takes much longer than the conventional gas re-fueling. They are not too far from the truth, but Tesla Motors (and perhaps others), seem close to solving this issue, if not making it a more tolerable difference. Tesla currently offers the technology (called a supercharger) to charge one of their car’s batteries in about 1-hr, which corresponds to about 300 miles of range per hour of charge. That’s not bad, as according to a useful calculator on Tesla Motors website, a 400 mile trip would only require 55 minutes of charging, resulting in an approximately 7-hr and 5-min trip, at an average speed of 65 mph. To put that into perspective, a trip from Minneapolis, MN to Chicago, IL, which is about 409 miles, would take approximately 6-hrs and 25-minutes driving 65 mph (including a 5-minute refuel stop). Considering the fact that the average human eats a meal every 5 hours, and that an average rest stop meal might last anywhere from 15-45 minutes, the cost associated with waiting 55 minutes every 300 miles is not that high.

Additionally, there have been attempts by companies to perform battery swaps instead of recharges. This technique has the potential to make “re-fueling” even faster than conventional gasoline cars. Infrastructure, since the 20th century, the century dominated by automobile production, and adoption, was dominated by the internal combustion engine, the entire roadway infrastructure is catered to gas powered vehicles. People can travel almost anywhere across the continent comfortably knowing that they will be nearby a gas station for refueling. Electric vehicles, require completely different “fueling” infrastructure. EVs are still in their infancy, the infrastructure is even more so. Before a lot of people will consider adopting the technology they will want to feel comfortable with the infrastructure that compliments it. The cost of building new infrastructure will be huge, but if early adopters choose the best practices and technology, their costs will be made up quickly infrastructure is a big factor for consumers adopting a technology.


Quieter could also mean more dangerous, for pedestrians, bikers, and other drivers. Batteries, rely on resources still found mostly in foreign countries (lithium, for instance), so an independence from gasoline simply causes a reliance on a new resource. Electricity used to charge the electric vehicles can be generated from multiple sources; nuclear, solar, wind, hydropower, natural gas, petroleum, coal, etc. Unfortunately, the majority of United States electricity generation still comes from fossil fuels, about 67%[8], so the waning off of petroleum through the replacement of gasoline powered vehicles substitutes’ one fossil fuel for another in one sense. The percentage of U.S. electric generation coming from renewable energy has been increasing, which is promising, since the cleanliness of the electric vehicle is highly dependent on the source by which its power was provided.

The electric vehicle is more efficient than the gasoline powered vehicle. “Electric vehicles convert about 59-62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels”, while typical gasoline powered vehicles only convert about 17-21%[9]. Of course, the actual efficiency depends on the efficiency of the power generating facility that supplies the energy to the grid, but reports suggest that it is most often more efficient.

If the entire grid was powered by renewable resources that don’t emit any pollutants, then electric vehicles wouldn’t emit any pollutants during their operating life-cycle. One problem with gasoline powered vehicles is that they emit harmful emissions from the tailpipes, due to the byproducts of internal combustion. Even while electric vehicles are supplied energy from fossil-fuel burning power plants, the overall environmental impact of an electric vehicle is still less than the gas car. It is thought that even when electric vehicles are charged with energy from a fossil-fuel, air polluting source, they are still less impactful on the environment. At a power generating facility all of the pollutants are concentrated at one spot, and therefore treating them becomes a much more controllable task. Whereas with cars that emit harmful pollutants into the environment, they are everywhere, spread around the country, they pollutant “scrubbers” in the vehicles are usually less sophisticated, and the restrictions are usually less stringent. Also, power plants are usually located away from city centers and high-density populations, and they tend to have tall smokestacks that emit the pollutants further away from humans. This coupled with the fact that most power plants have stronger air quality control regulations, compared to those of individual automobiles, means that the emissions coming from the smokestacks are usually cleaner as well.

Cost ComparisonEdit

Much like in 1914, the upfront cost of an electric vehicle, compared to that of a comparable gasoline powered vehicle, is still higher. However, when the cost of gas is factored into the price (something that most people probably don’t consider with much thought), the price comparison changes, and quite drastically in some cases.

Currently Tesla Motors is in the process of building a supercharging network, which boasts the technology of supplying one of their vehicles with 200 miles per 20 minutes of charge – quite a feat in terms of modern charging abilities. The cherry-on-top of these supercharger stations, they are free for Tesla Model S drivers.

According to the research paper mentioned above by Haagen, the average vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per driver per day was around 36.5. A quick multiplication by 365 (days in an average year) to get average VMT per year produces a value of approximately 13,300 miles. If the average vehicle owner drives 13,300 miles per year, and owns the car for six years (the average length of new car ownership in the United States according to a study done by global market intelligence firm R.L. Polk & Co[10]), they will end up spending approximately $12,200 on gasoline (based on market average gas price of $3.50, and EPA estimated 23 mpg new vehicle average).

The average price of a new car in the United States set a record in August, 2013 - $31,252, according to a study done by[11]. Adding $12,200 to that price produces a simple, yet crude, approximation of the basic cumulative cost of owning a brand new 2013 car for 6 years - $43,4521.

Tesla Motors provides a convenient calculator on their website for figuring out the cost associated with charging one of their vehicles. Using the national average of $0.12 per kW-hr, it would cost approximately $1.39 per day for the average driver in Haagen’s research (36.5 miles per day). Therefore, in comparison, a driver would spend approximately $3,0002 to drive an electric vehicle 13,300 miles per year, for six years, a pretty remarkable 75% decrease in “fueling” cost.

The baseline cost of a new Tesla Model S, is around $75,000, though, and so even if a driver was somehow to manage only charging his/her vehicle using Tesla’s free Supercharging stations, his/her car would still be more expensive than a gasoline counterpart in the long run. Still, $75,000 compared to $43,000 is a better margin than considering just the baseline initial purchase cost of $31,252, and the fact that Tesla is building a huge network of superchargers that are free for their users has the potential to be a big game changer in the near future. For instance, on these facts alone, it can be assumed that if Tesla is somehow able to lower the cost of their vehicles to approximately $40,000, they will be cost effective compared to modern gasoline vehicles. Indeed, if Tesla was able to lower their price to even $45,000, the Model S would be cost-effective compared to a new $31,252 car owned and operated for 10 years (rather than the average 6) under the above assumptions, considering that the Model S actually has a 10 year battery warranty.

By comparison, the Nissan Leaf is more than cost-effective, under these assumptions. The Nissan Leaf is simply inhibited by lower range (approx. 50 mpc), less advanced charging infrastructure (no superchargers), and charging stations are not free. Over the life-span of 6-years, the Nissan Leaf, $31,000 + $3,000 (for fueling) = $34,000, is 22% more cost-effective.

1The real cost of owning a vehicle would include maintenance costs and insurance, and according to a study done by auto club AAA the average owner of a sedan ends up paying around $10,000 a year to own and operate the car. The reason this wasn’t used is that electric vehicles also require insurance payments, and have maintenances costs associated with them. At this point the cost of maintenance is difficult to compare since the main modern electric vehicle competitors like the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf have only been around for 5 years or less. However, it is very likely that the maintenance cost of electric vehicles is less than that of an internal combustion engine driven vehicle, since there are inherently less mechanical, moving parts.

2Assuming the driver charges his/her car from a NEMA 14-50 240 V | 40 A outlet

Quantitative Life-Cycle AnalysisEdit

The total number of electric vehicles has been growing rather rapidly since 2010 as seen in figure 5 below. Before that, there was an overall trend of growth since 1992, but it was rather slow, although sales did pick up momentarily at the turn of the century. The growth spurt in 2000 is likely due to an increase in crude oil price, and another scare over the dependence on foreign oil. However, the sales didn’t last long, and in 2003, electric vehicle sales slowed down albeit a continued rise.

In the modern era life-cycle of the electric vehicle (I am referring to anything after 1990), the electric vehicle has seen two periods of growth; a short phase from about 1999-2003, and the current phase that took off in about 2010. The overall trend of the data, economy, and technology suggests growth. How many Americans will buy electric cars, and how quickly they choose to adopt the technology if they do, however, is unknown. But, by looking at current statistics and making a few basic assumptions, an approximate projection based on the limited data and knowledge can be made. The following charts and figures will help define some of these assumptions and scenarios.

The data over the time period 1992-2011 used within the following sections is from a collection of studies formed by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), of the U.S. Department of Energy, and the following is an excerpt from one of the reports, explaining what the data is and what is to be expected from it.

“Some degree of uncertainty is associated with electric vehicle estimates because of the differences in the definitions of an onroad electric vehicle. To eliminate some of this uncertainty, the definition of electric vehicles has been restricted for this report. For example, prototypes, large golf carts, schoo-based kit vehicles, unconfirmed hobbyist vehicles, and nonhighway vehicles were excluded from the electric vehicle definition.”[12]

As it mentions, the electric vehicles measured in these surveys are to be assumed to be onroad highway vehicles. This includes Light Duty vehicles which are measured as weighing less than 8,500-lbs, Medium Duty vehicles (8,501 – 26,000 lbs) and Heavy Duty vehicles (26,001 and greater).

The estimated values of total EVs in use in 2012, and 20133 are from the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA)[13]. They compare with popular media publications around the web.

For the following comparisons, it is assumed that the data is for onroad highway electric vehicles. The data following is for Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs).

3Estimated based on current YTD values, and average 2013 monthly sales assumed for October, November, and December


Figure 5: Modern statistics gathered by the Energy Information Administration on estimated total number of battery electric vehicles in the United States

The actual birth of the electric automobile happened a little before the 1900’s, as discussed in the overview and history above, but since very few electric automobiles lasted, were driven, or let alone were even produced from 1920-1990, the birth phase of the electric automobile will be contained to the modern life-cycle of the technology, meaning 1990-onward.

The renaissance of the modern electric automobile could be credited to a number of events leading up to the 90’s, but a strong correlation exists between the state of California’s goals to improve air quality and the rise in sales and money spent on R&D. In 1990, the Californian government passed the 1990 Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV I) Program as a part of the CARB ZEV[14] program to promote zero emission vehicles as a means to reduce air pollution. A timeline of objectives were set, relating to the number of “zero emission”, “low emission”, and “ultra low emission” cars that were required to be sold per year, with one of them being that by 1998 2% of all new cars sold in California must be “zero emission.” – It doesn’t come as much of a surprise then that California still has the majority of electric vehicle registrations in 2013.

Nevertheless, very few electric vehicles actually entered the market each year. As seen in Figure 4 below, the year 2000 marked the first significant rise in number of electric vehicles on the road.

Figure 6: Picture inside the cockpit of a 1998 GM EV1

During this time period (1999-2003), GM, Toyota, and Ford were offering fully electric vehicles, just to name a few. GM produced the EV1, which they sold about 1,200 of, and Toyota sold a RAV4 EV, a version of their renowned model, which sold about 1,300.

This leaves a rather large portion of vehicles from the statistics unaccounted for. If the two biggest mainstream markets only accounted for 2,500 vehicles from 1996-2003, where did the other 44,205 vehicles added to the market come from? Short answer: I don’t know. According to the data compiled by the EIA, though, 15,313 “nonhybrid electric vehicles were “made available” in 2002, as seen below in Table 3[15].

The number of total nonhybrid electric vehicles made available matches up closely with the estimated number of electric vehicles added to the market from 2002-2003. Anyways, it is unclear what defines an electric vehicle in this data from the EIA, and the first phase of growth is a bit uncertain. What is important though is that there was some slight growth in the early 2000’s, and legislature in California and at the federal level was giving EVs more attention.


The growth phase of the early 2000’s is probably better defined as part of the birth phase, since there wasn’t any strong, lasting products to develop from it. After the failure of the GM EV1, Toyota RAV4 EV, and others, a period of slow, but steady growth ensued for the next 6-7 years.

It is likely that the failure of the early 2000 EVs was due to their range, mixed with the lack of charging infrastructure, and their unreliability – the same problems they have been faced with since the 1900’s. The most significant growth began in 2008. Since then, the number of EVs in the United States has more than doubled. Three major car companies control the majority of the sales right now; Mitsubishi, Nissan, and newcomer Tesla Motors. While the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i have ranges from 70-100 miles, it is the Tesla Model S that shows the most promise with its ranges from 200-300 miles per charge.

Tesla Motors is proving that they are very dedicated to building the infrastructure needed to support their vehicles, which is also unique to the brand. Rather than waiting for the industry to catch up, they have seemingly decided to take matters into their own hand.

While the prices of the Nissan and Mitsubishi EVs are much more cost-effective than the Tesla, the range and vertical integration of Tesla is hard to ignore. Tesla has been beating its own expectations over the past year in number of sales, and production capacity of its plants. Tesla especially made headlines when it paid back nearly $450 million in government loans 9 years early, doing so before the other five companies picked for clean vehicle R&D (Nissan, Ford, Fisker, and The Vehicle Production Group LLC).

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has mentioned to media that a car with a 200 mile range with a $35,000 price tag could be on the market as soon as 2016.


Based on current growth, using an S-curve to fit the data, and assuming full highway registered vehicle fleet conversion4 into EVs, the year 2047 will mark the year in which 50% of all vehicles are battery electric. See Figure 8, below.

Figure 8: Projected S-curve total number of electric vehicles in use in the United States based on current data from the EIA. Saturation is assumed to be 250,000,000 vehicles, the total number of highway registered vehicle in the U.S. in 2013. In other words, full fleet conversion to electric. t0 = 2047 under this projection (the inflection date in which 50% of saturation would be met under current growth.

The above projection is not very realistic since it assumes that every highway registered vehicle will be replaced by electric vehicles. There are a number of reasons why that is a bad assumption. For starters, if gasoline cars are to be replaced completely, there is a good chance that the market would be shared by multiple alternative fueled vehicles. There is research into fuel cell vehicles, nitrogen gas vehicles, hydrogen powered vehicles, and many more. The odds that the market will be completely dominated by electricity is not likely to happen right away. Also, the average age of a vehicle on the road today is 11 years old, and it is continuing to grow. As technology advances and cars last longer, people will most likely hold out from buying a new car even if it is electric and cheaper on an operating basis.

A better, safer assumption would be that electric vehicles achieve full light vehicle conversion. This would mean that the market saturation of electric vehicles would reach approximately 190,000,000 vehicles by 2011 statistics. Although, even this is a risky assumption, but it at least accounts for some error since it seems unlikely that electric will completely replace gasoline powered cars. Also, 190 million electric vehicles is conservative since the total number of highway registered vehicles is 290 million today. Even if the population keeps growing, the number of registered vehicles may not grow much higher, since congestion levels are already high. However, streets could be widened, and there is no telling if behavioral changes might occur causing people to drive less, choose different modes, carpool more, or something else. Either way, the following graph gives another scenario in which the saturation limit for EVs is 190 million, rather than 250 million, as in Figure 8.

Figure 9: Projected S-curve total number of electric vehicles in use in the United States based on current data from the EIA. Saturation is assumed to be 190,000,000 vehicles, approximately the total number of highway registered light-duty vehicle in the U.S. in 2013. In other words, full fleet conversion to electric. t0 = 2045.7 under this projection (the inflection date in which 50% of saturation would be met under current growth.

Figure 9 does not look much different than Figure 8, and the inflection point in which 50% of the saturation is projected to occur is similar. At the end of 2045, based on this data, 50% of the 190 million cars will be BEVs.

4According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there are currently 253,000,000 highway registered vehicles on the road (based on 2011 data). This includes light duty, short wheel base; light duty, long wheel base; motorcycle; truck, single-unit 2-axle 6-tire or more; truck combination; and bus. See for more details


Current statistics appear to show a positive upward trend for the growth of electric vehicles. They are still in their infancy, though. The estimated total number of EVs in the U.S. today is 120,000, which is a small fraction of the total number of registered vehicles in the country – 250 million.

The life-cycle of the electric vehicle is an interesting one, since it began in the late 1800’s, had a short growth period, peaked, and then declined and was dormant for most of the 20th century. Then, again in the late 20th century, they experienced a period of growth for a few years from 1998-2003, only to level off for the six following years.

The growth experienced in the past two years seems to beat any previous trends, and technology and early success of Tesla Motors has something to do with that. There are still many hurtles to be cleared before the electric vehicle achieves widespread adoption, but the future is more promising than it has ever been. If a car company can make an affordable 200 mile range car that charges in about as much time as a gas tank, chances are very strong for full scale implementation. Based on a best curve fit (S-curve) on data relied upon by the EIA, and an assumption that all 250 million cars will be converted or replaced by electric, 2047 will be the year in which 50% of the market has been replaced.

If we model 190 million as the saturation point, t_0, the inflection point, would happen 1.25 years earlier.


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