One of my relatives claimed that electrical cars are overhyped and my relative somewhere read that we don't even have enough (renewable!) power to support a humanity in which only electrical cars are used.

Is that true?

And what if "not renewable" power is used? Will a humanity using electrical cars then be able to be supported?

  • 4
    Is the argument that we right now don't have enough renewable energy to be able to let everyone suddenly use an electric car or that it's not possible to create enough energy in the future?
    – FooTheBar
    Jul 2, 2018 at 18:53
  • 3
    Could you refine the question more? One of your relatives does not make this notable.
    – JasonR
    Jul 2, 2018 at 19:08
  • 1
    @Giter I would argue that renewable energy sources can also have a negative impact on the environment. Hydro power such as dams destroy natural habitats, solar and wind can cause harm to the animals that live in the area, biomass also produces greenhouse gasses. Need to remember that the definition of renewable energy is that the source won't run out or replenishes fast not that it is necessarily green energy.
    – Joe W
    Jul 2, 2018 at 20:18
  • 1
    We have a rule that only widely-held beliefs are in scope for this site (or at least, claims made by notable people and organisations that are widely seen). Please provide some references to places where this claim is being made.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 3, 2018 at 2:14
  • 2
    Problems include: Who is hyping that electric cars must run on renewable energy? Who is saying that there is enough renewable energy today to do that? And asking for speculation on what would happen to an industry in the future, if a particular scenario happens, isn't on-topic here.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 3, 2018 at 2:17

1 Answer 1


Using Tesla's Model 3 electric car and American driving patterns as an example, it is entirely possible that electricity needs for every driver could be met with renewable energy.

In short, if every driver in the world was a typical American driver then we would need to double the amount of energy from renewable sources in order to meet this new demand without affecting any other energy consumer. This would be quite expensive currently, however it is far from impossible.

Tesla's Model 3 standard and long range versions have battery capacities of 50kWh/75kWh, respectively, and ranges of 220miles/310miles. This gives us about 4 miles per kilowatt-hour of electricity for that electric car, and for simplicity let's just assume that's a good average.

The US Department of Transportation claims that the average American driver drives about 13,500 miles per year, and that there are 210 million Americans with a driver's licences. Assuming they all count as 'drivers' for the first statistic, that's roughly 3 trillion miles driven by Americans per year. So, assuming 4 miles/kWh and 3 trillion miles, America would need to produce roughly 750 billion kWh of electricity per year to power electric cars for all current drivers.

A quick look at a list of countries by power consumption on Wikipedia shows that the US consumes about 3.9 trillion kWh per year. Assuming the 750 billion kWh estimate is good enough, about 20% of America's current total energy consumption would have to go towards electric cars. According to REN21's 2017 report on renewable energy, renewable energy accounted for 19.3% of global energy consumption.

So, if America increased it's energy production by 20% and only through renewable energy sources, then the electricity consumption by electric cars would be met without affecting any other consumer. Although expensive, this is certainly in the realm of possibility, and the actual worldwide increase would probably lower due to smaller percentages of drivers outside the US.

Trucking addendum: In case the above DOT stats on miles per year only apply to 'typical' drivers and not truckers, here's some trucking info:

The American Trucking Association claims that about 450 billion miles were traveled by trucks in 2015. Assuming electric trucks are a quarter as efficient as electric cars, it gets 1 mile per kWh, for an additional 450 billion kWh on top of the 750 billion kWh above for a total of 1.2 trillion kWh. This means that even if trucks weren't counted in the previous DOT statistics then the increase would be about 30% rather than 20%. Even more expensive, but still possible.

  • 1
    I think this leaves out trucking, from Australia that is a big chunk of road use. (And you don't see many electric powered road trains)
    – daniel
    Jul 2, 2018 at 20:24
  • @daniel: Yeah, the DOT's driving statistics I found unfortunately don't go into whether or not their 'average miles driven' counts truckers or not, so the actual average may be higher. I just added some info on trucks: even if the statistics I found don't cover them, the energy use is not a large increase.
    – Giter
    Jul 2, 2018 at 20:41
  • You're assuming that an electric truck uses the same amount of power per mile as a passenger car?
    – Fizz
    Jul 2, 2018 at 20:45
  • 1
    You can drown in a river that's on average 1 meter deep. If you actually want to be able to drive every day of the year you need a lot more renewable energy production than you get by simply looking at total energy consumption.
    – Christian
    Jul 3, 2018 at 8:19
  • 1
    @Christian DevSolars point is that this answer is doing an order or magnitude answer; is it 1, 10, 100 or 1000. You're talking about if it's 60 or 70; you'd need to massively reduce the approximations elsewhere before you even start to look at that. Giters answer shows it's plausible to do, not the exact cost Jul 7, 2018 at 16:13

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .