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If All U.S. Cars Suddenly Became Electric, How Much More Electricity Would We Need?

Let’s do the math.

The U.S. burned 133 billion gallons of gasoline in 2012. I’m going to ignore diesel vehicles because the majority of diesel burned in the U.S. is in heavy vehicles where battery-electric drivetrains are not a practical option.

The average thermal energy content in gasoline is 33.41 kWh per gallon. This gives 4,443 TWh of thermal power going to gasoline road vehicles in the U.S. per year. If we assume electric vehicles use energy with four times the efficiency of gasoline vehicles (a reasonable round number), it would take 1,111 TWh of electrical energy to replace that gasoline energy. U.S. electricity consumption in 2011 was 3,882 TWh.

So the increase in yearly electricity demand would be about 29 percent.

Now, let’s look at what this does to CO2 emissions.

Each gallon of gasoline contains 8,887 grams of CO2. So the CO2 reduction from avoided gasoline consumption (assuming demand does not rise elsewhere to compensate) would be 1.182 billion tonnes CO2 per year. But this is the gross figure before increased electricity use is considered.


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