Electric vehicles may not have the stamina to outsell gasoline engines. Photo: Paul Aiken/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
The Energy Information Administration's latest set of long-term projections is kind of a sad trombone when it comes to the growth of electric vehicles in the U.S.
Where it stands: The "reference case" in the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2019 projects that EVs will grow but internal combustion engines will remain "dominant" through at least mid-century.
- They see gasoline-powered and to a much lesser extent "flex fuel" (gasoline-high ethanol) vehicles accounting for 75% of the light-duty sales in 2050.
The other side: Contrast their outlook with the consultancy BloombergNEF.
- They see battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids swelling to 64% of the U.S. market in 2040, with BEV sales around 10.3 million, which is several times what EIA projects, their analysts told me.
- Yes, BNEF has long been the optimistic end of the spectrum, but a number of major forecasters have been boosting their estimates, too.
Where it stands: The EIA has long faced criticism for low-balling the growth of renewables, and there's reason to think they're too conservative when it comes to EVs too.
- Consider Rice University analyst Daniel Cohan, who questions the EIA's cost comparisons for gasoline-powered versus electric-powered vehicles.
But, but, but: To be fair, it's an exercise and the EIA takes some pains to show that there are all kinds of variables and the future, like, hasn't even happened yet.
- The reference case, for instance, assumes that laws and policies remain unchanged, and needless to say U.S. policy isn't static.
Go deeper: Harvard energy expert Jesse Jenkins discussed the topic via this Twitter thread over the weekend.
- It's a helpful look at the uses and limitations of long-term models and his view that the EIA's methods don't adequately consider technology and economic changes.