Mark Jacobson in his book Renewable energy and storage for everything developed a plan to convert virtually all of the world’s energy from fossil fuels to electricity. It includes things like steel and concrete production and high-speed long-distance air transportation that most people didn’t even consider until he did the research and proposed a plan in his articles.
In his book he also explained how we will generate this electricity in the fastest, most economical and least carbon intensive way possible using wind, water and the sun. See also my article: “Green Energy: Let’s do the fastest, smartest things first.”
Once electricity is produced in the least carbon-intensive way, what conversion from fossil fuels to electricity can be done fastest, most economically and with the greatest impact first.
Private light electric vehicles: I put it first because countries like Norway, Germany and China are well on their way to completely switching from fossil fuels to battery electric cars for new car sales. Many of our readers, myself included, have already purchased and largely drive electric cars and are doing our best to evangelize them. This is an extremely visible sector, and if the general public and politicians see much progress in this area, it will encourage them to tackle the rest of the problem.
How did Norway, a country with low temperatures that reduce battery performance and require cabin heating, get 90% of car sales to be new electric vehicles? 1) High gas prices (if you think US gas prices are high now, go to European countries that have very high gas taxes). 2) No taxes on EV sales (sales of gas vehicles are heavily taxed). 3) Free tolls on motorways and ferries. 4) Access to bus and HOV lanes. Vehicle sales in Norway are also relatively small, so there was no problem with EV manufacturers being able to meet demand.
However, other countries with somewhat larger or huge vehicle sales are well on their way, with Germany at 26% and China at 28% of all new EV sales. Germany and China also have incentives and regulations that encourage and require EV adoption.
Most other countries with large vehicle sales have exceeded the 5% or 10% adoption rate, which is a typical indicator of market adoption of a new technology. Even in the US – where Tesla, GM and Nissan have almost or completely exhausted federal subsidies – new BEV adoption rates have already reached 5.6%. The biggest problem now is the transition of the massive automotive industry to EVs and the production of enough batteries to power them. The market leader, Tesla, will produce at a rate of 3 million EVs per year in massive factories in Fremont, California; Austin, Texas; Shanghai, China; and Berlin, Germany soon. Tesla Giga Texas is the largest building in the world, 3x the size of the American pentagon, and will eventually build millions of Model Ys, Model 3s, Cybertrucks and Tesla Semis per year. But this is still a decline in a world market with 67 million new vehicles per year. Other companies like Volkswagen in Europe and BYD in China have also committed to massive expansion of EV production, with companies like Ford and GM pushing ahead. However, we still have companies like Toyota and Honda doing everything they can to slow down the conversion to EVs. The entire industry will need to switch to BEVs quickly to make a full transition to electric.
Heavy electric vehicles: Although there are far fewer vehicles in this class, their duty cycle is much higher and diesel engines tend to pollute the air more. Tesla is a major proponent of battery-electric propulsion for long-haul heavy-duty vehicles, but it too has delayed production of the Tesla Semi for several years, largely due to a lack of sufficient supplies of high-performance batteries. However, many heavy semi-trailers have predictable short-distance routes, and a number of companies – such as Volvo, Mercedes, Lion, etc. – already produce BEVs for this application.
Commercial electric vehicles: The duty cycle of the fleet is also often very high. A number of companies – such as Hertz, Amazon and Walmart – have placed orders for tens of thousands of BEVs for their businesses. Unfortunately, their suppliers – such as Tesla, Rivian and Canoo – have made relatively few deliveries so far. Even the USPS plans to power 20% of new vehicles in its massive vehicle replacement program with electricity. We can only hope that enough political pressure can be exerted to increase this figure to nearly 100%..
It is quite possible that the total worldwide adoption of new electric vehicles will account for more than 50% of new vehicle sales within 5 years. However, even if they approach 95%, it will take at least another ten years for the total fleet to match these numbers.
Electric heating and air conditioning: All air conditioning has been completely electrified using heat pump technology since it became widely used in warm climates in the 1960s. Houses have been heated by resistance electric floor heating for many years. However, resistance heating it is not efficient and very expensive compared to fossil gas and oil which has been the technology used for the last 75 years. Heat pumps are the most efficient technology for heating with electricity. Heat pumps have recently become more efficient and can now be used even in cold climates. For the coldest days in super cold climates, they may use resistance heating or an underground heat source to keep them running. Heat pumps can also be used, which can efficiently heat and cool with the same unit. Unfortunately, heat pumps for heating have a high initial cost, which makes them a difficult choice for retrofitting and also for furnace replacement in the event of furnace failure. For this to happen quickly on a large scale, substantial government subsidies are needed. In new buildings, it is much more practical to install heat pump units that can heat and cool. This will only happen on a large scale if the building regulations change. Now, for the first time, we are witnessing that some cities are banning the connection of fossil gases in new construction. It is this type of regulation that will accelerate the adoption of two-way heat pump heating and cooling.
Europe in general and Germany in particular face the threat of extortion by cutting off fossil gas from their Russian supplier. If Germany is to avoid freezing houses this coming winter, it needs to make a massive switch to heat pump technology in a very short time. It may also get some liquefied fossil gas (LNG) by ship from the US and other countries, but that will not make up for the complete shutdown of fossil gas pipelines from Russia this winter.
Buildings with zero energy consumption: I described how conventional buildings can be heated and cooled without the use of fossil fuels. However, conservation techniques using maximum insulation and complete elimination of air leaks can reduce the energy demand of buildings to almost zero. This is a critical step for many homes and buildings.
Electric transport: This is another area where one could argue that electric propulsion would be impossible. However, new short-distance ferries and other ships are now powered by batteries and electric motors. It is not conceivable how to do this with huge ships that sail across the oceans for weeks. New technologies such as vertical rotating sails and kite sails have been developed to reduce fossil fuel consumption in long-distance shipping by up to 20%. However, it is most likely only possible to use electricity in two steps to drive long-distance shipping. Excess electricity from wind farms and solar arrays can be used to produce green hydrogen, and fuel cells can convert this hydrogen back into electricity to power carbon-free long-distance transport.
Electric Aviation: Many companies are making major efforts to use battery technology and electric motors to power short-range commuter aircraft and drone-type vertical takeoff aircraft. As battery technology improves, these aircraft will have longer and longer ranges. Medium-range aircraft would most likely be electrically powered using green hydrogen and fuel cells. Long-range aircraft would have to be powered by burning green hydrogen directly or using it to produce green jet fuel.
Production of electrical steel and cement: I’m not an expert on this technology, but I assume it would require the use of green hydrogen burned directly or as part of the type of green fuel needed. Explore our green steel and cement archives for more on these topics.
All Electric: I wrote a series of articles called “Electric Everything”. CleanTechnica which states how almost everything my readers and I have thought of is becoming available in battery electric versions. However, most of them would not have a large effect on reducing the amount of fossil fuels compared to the above items.
comments: Please use the comments section to add things I’ve missed or to give your opinion on how we can electrify everything.
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