The National Research Council has issued a study examining the costs and benefits of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and concluding that it will likely be decades before such vehicles yield benefits to overcome their higher initial costs. From the press release:
Costs of plug-in hybrid electric cars are high — largely due to their lithium-ion batteries — and unlikely to drastically decrease in the near future, says a new report from the National Research Council. Costs to manufacture plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in 2010 are estimated to be as much as $18,000 more than for an equivalent conventional vehicle. Although a mile driven on electricity is cheaper than one driven on gasoline, it will likely take several decades before the upfront costs decline enough to be offset by lifetime fuel savings. Subsidies in the tens to hundreds of billions of dollars over that period will be needed if plug-ins are to achieve rapid penetration of the U.S. automotive market. Even with these efforts, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are not expected to significantly impact oil consumption or carbon emissions before 2030.
John Petersen, writing at Alt Energy Stocks, sums up the point for investors who have jumped into the field: “grid-enabled vehicles, or GEVs, are nowhere near ready for prime time and investors that buy into the GEV hype can look forward to decades of pain and suffering.” Petersen follows up with additional commentary on electric vehicle issues.
It doesn’t appear that the NRC report examines possible “Vehicle to Grid” (V2G) services and associated revenue, which are sometimes explored in this kind of analysis, but that is probably a good thing. You might recall the USPS report “Electrification of Delivery Vehicles” assumed that the examined all-electric vehicles would yield nearly $200 per month from V2G (and still the project only made sense of the USPS if taxpayers chipped in to the tune of $15,500 per vehicle). The NRC report is on the safer ground, I think. As I’ve said here before, projections of significant V2G revenues are unlikely to pan out.