Survey: If Electricity Came Only From Renewable Energy Sources, Then Electric Vehicle Sales Would Surge by 23%

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 40

Corn Fields and Wind Farms...A Match Made in Heaven

Corn Fields and Wind Farms…A Match Made in Heaven

A recent study from Simon Fraser University, published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters, claims that interest in electric vehicles would rise substantially if North American utility companies derived energy (in this case, electricity to charge EVs)  solely from renewable sources.

Nissan LEAF with Wind Turbines in the Background

Nissan LEAF with Wind Turbines in the Background

Though some nations rely almost exclusively on renewable energy sources (for example, wind power, solar or hydroelectric), most of the US is powered by what the scientific journal classifies as fossil fuels.

Simon Fraser University set out to see if the US’ lack of dependence on renewable energy impacted sales of plug-in vehicles and discovered that it did.  In its survey of 1,500 Americans, Simon Fraser University found that potential buyers were 23 percent more likely to say they would switch to a plug-in vehicle if it could tap into solar, wind or hydroelectric power.

Jonn Axsen, an assistant professor at SFU who conducted the survey, stated:

“This makes a good argument for a better connection between automakers and utilities in terms of how these two different products are marketed.”

The study was partially funded by BMW.  The German automaker previously teamed up with Green Mountain Energy to offer “renewable energy certificates” to ActiveE drivers in the US.  The certificates ensure, in a round about sort of way, that power for the ActiveE comes from renewable sources.

Of course, we fully support renewable energy, but would the US simply switching over to renewable really drive up sales of plug-in vehicles?  Or would it require a massive marketing pitch and re-educating of the public to have the result that this survey claims?

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40 responses to "Survey: If Electricity Came Only From Renewable Energy Sources, Then Electric Vehicle Sales Would Surge by 23%"

  1. Brian says:

    Yeah, surveys are only so good. Besides, there is very little stopping a large group of customers from installing solar panels on their roof in order to reach that same goal of 100% renewable energy.

    Education is the biggest barrier, not the source of electricity. There are several studies that show EVs are cleaner than the best gas cars on the US’ average grid energy TODAY, and that only gets better over time.

  2. kdawg says:

    I think if their bluff were called, these 23% would come up with another excuse.

    It would have been funny if they had asked “If electricity came only from domestic sources, would you be more likely to buy an EV?” HAHA

    1. Anderlan says:

      “domestic sources”? You mean, like the top of your house? 🙂

      1. kdawg says:

        That’s 1 option, but all sources are domestic. I think that would hit home w/more people; the idea you are giving your $ back to fellow Americans vs. dictators/etc. It should have been a rhetorical question on the end of the survey, with a note below it – (Note: All sources of electricity are domestic).

        1. Brian says:

          …or “almost” all sources are domestic. In northern New England – particularly VT – a good amount of electricity is imported from Canada.

          1. kdawg says:

            Hey, that’s America Junior!

            1. Brian says:

              That’s also the single largest (and dirtiest) source of our imported oil…

              1. BraveLittleToaster says:

                Yes, and because oil is a global commodity, even if America was only getting its oil from America and/or Canada, increased consumption still enriches (for example) Iran. Oil producers would be inclined to export their oil out of the country (to say, Europe or China) if their product suddenly became more expensive elsewhere.

                Which is exactly what happened with the oil shocks in the 1970’s. In 1972, America was still producing nearly all of its own oil, but there were still domestic shortages when suddenly all of the middle east shut off its exports. Eventually, America had to go to war to solve the problem.

                Electricity, while it’s possible to export to your nearest neighbours, isn’t that exportable.

                The only other solution would be to nationalize your oil industry to ensure that local prices are low, but Iranians could tell you how *that’s* a huge problem too. Again, oil would get exported to make money for the government, and gasoline would get smuggled out of the country to be sold at insane markups, causing shortages at home.

                So that’s why, in spite of Canada being a huge oil exporter, Canadians still pay dearly at the pump. That, and higher gas taxes.

    2. Anthony says:

      Exactly!

      During the gas price spike of 2008, people were banging on the table about electric and other alt-fuel vehicles. Well, here are your electric cars!

      “Oh, well they’re too small” “They’re not an SUV or crossover” etc…

    3. Mark H says:

      Slow to the table but that is a clever spin kdawg!

  3. Warren says:

    What if Musk’s big announcement, next Tuesday, is that he will be building a huge chain of Supercharger stations, using his SolarCity panels? This is Jack Rickard’s guess.

    1. kdawg says:

      There’s another big announcement coming??

      1. Anthony says:

        There are several more announcements coming. One on superchargers, and two more on un-announced topics.

    2. Brian says:

      I hadn’t heard of another big announcement. He certainly made one this past Tuesday, by putting up his own money to guarantee resale value of 36-month-old “pseudo-leased” Model S cars.

    3. GeorgeS says:

      Earth to Warren. He already made the big announcement…but I forgot what it was. Oh yeh the 500$/mo lease deal on the S that’s really 1000$/mo.

      1. Brian says:

        Well, it’s more than that. Musk said he will be “putting his money where his mouth is”, and he has done that. He is backing the “leases” (not true leases, but very similar) with his own personal money, not Tesla’s.

      2. Warren says:

        Gad! $500 a month to lease a car?!I After three years and $18K you have nothing. You can buy a car for that. What a country.

  4. kdawg says:

    “In its survey of 1,500 Americans, Simon Fraser University found that potential buyers were 23 percent more likely to say they would switch to a plug-in vehicle if it could tap into solar, wind or hydroelectric power.”
    ——————————
    What is this sentence really telling us? “23% are more likely to say”. So did they say it, or were they contemplating saying it? And to say your are more likely to say something, how does this translate into actually doing it? It’s sort of like stating, “I am 50% positive that I somewhat trust most surveys”.

  5. GeorgeS says:

    This study is such a load. It’s probably the opposite: If the utilities have a larger portion of renewables in their mix that will cause rates to go up and that makes EVs less desirable. Look what happened in Germany. The dummies have a knee jerk reaction and shut down their nuclear plants so now they have increased their renwables and what’s happened??? Higher CO2 emissions and more expensive electric rates.

    1. Danpatgal says:

      Well – nobody’s perfect, including no large country … but I’d rather be promoting solar, wind, and renewables for the long term and closing nuclear (because of safety concerns) – even if it means some short term rate hikes. Yes the basic rates are higher in Germany, but if you get solar, you can sell your generation for a guaranteed rate ABOVE what you buy it, so for PV owners your effective rate is less.

      I, however, can’t really defend this survey – it’s kind of silly. I’d rather see a survey for price and range and see how those factors affect potential sales, since for all the people I talk to about my car, that’s the primary motivator.

      1. GeorgeS says:

        ” but I’d rather be promoting solar, wind, and renewables for the long term and CLOSING nuclear (because of safety concerns).”

        Please go away and do your homework. Nuclear Power has the lowest safety record of any form of power generation.

        Our nuclear facilities in the US are like gold. the plants are paid off and they are producing electricity for pennies on the dollar and they are contributing ZERO CO2 to the environment.

        1. GeorgeS says:

          I mean highest. sorry CRS disease

          1. shawn marshall says:

            energy is fundamental to everything. The missed opportunity in our country to expand nuclear power and pursue research in about a dozen promising directions will puzzle future historians. They will wonder how we could be so stupid as to squander this wide open technology to invigorate our economy and the world’s. A reliable, safe, nearly inexhaustible source of power would raise the world standard of living as far as we can see in the future. Let’s be afraid of it and build windmills instead.

            1. Josh says:

              The existing reactors are paid for, so they produce cheap energy. Construction costs on nuclear power plants has increased dramatically making new projects bad business cases. Instead, natural gas plants are being built because they are the cheapest source of electricity we have.

              Wind competes on par with NG and coal in some markets, hence why it is getting developed in those areas. The utilities only believe in one green ($$$).

              1. BraveLittleToaster says:

                Which is exactly why there’s a few new solar-thermal plants being built in the desert – because the cost of producing electricity this way is coming down.

                I’m hopeful that the cost of solar panels is also going to reach parity with natural gas soonish. And when that happens, you’ll see a lot of utilities producing large solar arrays – probably backed up by natural gas generators – because they can make money off of them.

        2. Danpatgal says:

          GeorgeS: This is a bit off topic, on an EV site, but I won’t “go away”.

          I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results”? Just because we’ve “only” had two major and countless minor nuclear incidents doesn’t mean the future of nuclear power won’t include a lot more problems (or catastrophes) as these reactors age. Germany had already planned to shut down their older nuclear plants before Fukushima, that catastrophe simply sped up the timeline and forced the conservative right to re-consider their previous extension to keep nuclear plants operating.

          Besides the potential for catastrophe (that other power sources, particularly decentralized renewables, lack), we don’t have good information about how nuclear radiation emissions (planned and unplanned – and sometimes not even reported) affect long term health and we don’t have any plans for how to deal with spent fuel that must be contained for thousands of years (much longer than any known government has endured). This article gives some indication of the risks and costs:

          http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=nuclear-waste-lethal-trash-or-renewable-energy-source

          Germany is heading in the right direction by promoting solar and wind with electricity pricing that drives efficiency. Although EVs do not benefit from higher electricity prices in Germany – and they might even emit more CO2 in closing their nuclear plants in the short term – their economy on the whole is doing more with less. That’s the type of policy we in the USA should be leading.

  6. Steve says:

    Electric vehicle sales are already projected to “surge” much more than 23% this year with no changes in the mix of renewals. Last year Volt sales trippled. 23% seems quite modest by comparison to the growth curve of EV adoption.

  7. Bonaire says:

    With expected EV sales to double this year, this 23% “increase” of likelyhood is a survey that is a solution for a problem. It’s kind of dumb to offer a survey that leads people to an expected result. The survey is hokey.

    The grid is the grid. Why not ask if they would be more likely to cook a turkey in their oven if the power came from renewables rather than conventional power sources? Use grid power to charge an EV and you save power sent to a refinery to make gasoline, diesel to power the gasoline truck that delivers it, fuel-oil used to run tankers to bring oil to the refinery and the gasoline for all the employees working at the refinery.

  8. Nelson says:

    What’s stopping a foreign country from building a solar & wind farm on US soil to sell electricity to the US National Grid? They invest the capitol and we continue to be dependent on foreign owned energy production.

    NPNS!
    Volt#671

    1. Bonaire says:

      What’s stopping? They are already doing it and/or planning on doing it.

      Example of a cancelled project: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/07/us-china-us-solar-idUSTRE7A61OL20111107

      1. kdawg says:

        It would still be more stable than relying on OPEC juice.

    2. Josh says:

      This already happens. Many US wind farms are funded by EU companies who have prior experience owning and operating wind farms in EU.

      The sites are still constructed and operated in the US by Americans.

  9. Mark H says:

    Solar packages including inverters and brackets can be purchased for $1.5/watt. That translates into $1/watt after federal incentives or $2000 to fuel your vehicleS for 25 years.

    What if 20% of the public did provide their own?

    What if legislation changed to support communal solar and communal wind projects thus impacting 40% more.

    What if businesses started using their roof tops?

    1. Bonaire says:

      That is a little misleading. You just don’t buy solar packages and that’s it. You have a variety of other obstacles, of course, and the cheapness you state means you’re buying Chinese-made modules and feeding that monster. I chose to pay over $1/Watt for my USA-made modules (SolarWorld) and inverters (PowerOne). Well worth it to me to pay more for USA-made stuff. Most people should be prepared to pay about $4/Watt for a good Solar PV array done right with proper grounding, rails, wiring and electrical soundness via the use of a qualified electrician. Some people find that installing a new roof is needed before solar goes up. Others need ground-mount which is a bit more expensive.

      1. Mark H says:

        Agreed Bonaire. I have SolarWorld panels as well and should have stated DIY. I just helped a friend connect with a local installer who will install SolarWorld + Enphase inverters turnkey for $3/Watt so the prices continue to fall. I do not force a brand or nationality on anyone though and at $1/Watt DIY you can afford to have a bad panel. So yes, DIY . If I could edit the post, I would make the correction.

      2. GeorgeS says:

        I am glad I got the US Panels also……………..ooops I mean Japanese SANYO 210’s I have confidence they will last..unlike the chinese battery in my electric bike that lasted 2.5 years instead of 5-10 like they advertise for Fe batts.

  10. Denis Volt says:

    Yes, the study shows that people only buy refrigerators if the electricity come from renewable sources …..

  11. Priusmaniac says:

    Electric vehiucle sales would surge if they came with a micro range extender that safegard against getting stranded with an empty battery on an occasional longer trip.

    1. Mark H says:

      I agree. I hope we start to see the evolution of micro range extenders in the coming years.

  12. Solar panel are little expansive as the installation is costly but in long term they prove to be more economical that is why money making corporate houses are using them for their energy needs.