The future of transportation hums. The whir of electric motors will replace the rumble of internal combustion engines for everything from motorcycles to autonomous semitrailer trucks. It's going to put big demands on the electricity grid, which will operate differently from the way it does now.
That future will arrive sooner than you may think. "By 2030," says the business consulting firm AlixPartners, "we expect half of all cars to have an electric or hybrid power train, and almost all cars will be connected."
The research firm BloombergNEF predicted in May that by 2040, 57% of new global passenger cars and 81% of municipal buses will be electrics.
If you're a millennial, then you'll probably live to see internal-combustion vehicles relegated to museums.
Colorado can help us understand some of the implications of that seismic shift in transportation technology. This year, the state has enacted an extraordinary list of climate and clean energy laws. Their provisions include goals of slashing greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels. The targets are reductions of at least 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050.
A study commissioned by Community Energy, a renewable energy project developer, looked at various scenarios involving changes to Colorado electricity generation and vehicles. It measured how each would affect emissions in the state.
It found that eliminating coal power plants and electrifying vehicles (87% of light-duty vehicles and 70% of medium-duty vehicles) would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 42% between now and 2040 while lowering electricity rates.
As a bonus, the average driver would save almost $600 a year, because electricity is a cheaper fuel than gasoline or diesel, and electric vehicles have much lower maintenance costs than internal-combustion cars and trucks. (That's why New York City has determined that electric vehicles are the now the cheapest option for its municipal fleet.)
There is a "however": Colorado will have to carefully manage the timing of electric vehicle charging in order to prevent wild fluctuations in energy demand, which can destabilize electric grids.
"The key is to arrange EV charging locations around when the wind blows, the sun shines, and utility hour electric demands are not extreme," said Eric Blank, founder and strategic lead at Community Energy. He was quoted in a news release.
Electric utilities, governments, businesses, and individuals will have to work together, the study said. "Charging stations will likely be available at work during the day, as Colorado's solar resource tends to peak between noon and 5 pm," the news release says, "and at home for overnight charging, as wind energy tends to be most abundant at night."
(For much more information about the study and Colorado's energy outlook, see this story by David Roberts of Vox.)
Eventually, electricity will come from 100% renewable sources, and it will power a 100% electric fleet of personal and commercial vehicles. Consumers will enjoy shipping that involves no direct carbon emissions.
We at Cloverly honestly look forward to that all-electric, no-emissions day. Our founders' frustration over the carbon cost of shipping led to our creation.
Until that time, however, we offer our Sustainability as a Service platform, which makes it easy to offset carbon in the digital world. If you haven't already, check it out.