Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) has a bold goal of eventually delivering 500,000 vehicles per year. However, before it gets to that annual pace it first must produce that many cars in aggregate. Last week I looked at what the impact of half a million Teslas would be on our nation’s gasoline consumption. This week, let’s consider the impact of adding half a million Teslas to our nation’s electrical infrastructure.
The goal of this little exercise is to dream along with Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), while also considering the consequences, if any, and benefits of that dream. Just to summarize its impact on our nation’s gasoline consumption, to replace a half-million gas-guzzlers with a Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), our nation would cut out one full day of gasoline demand. That’s not bad, but given our increased export capacity and voracious demand overseas, that gas would find another home real soon.
That’s not to say Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) won’t have an impact on the marketplace, but let’s look at where that impact will lie. Looking at the numbers, according to Fueleconomy.gov, the average Tesla Model S has an energy impact score that equates to using 0.2 barrels of oil per year. For perspective, a Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) Fusion has an energy impact score of 11.8 barrels of oil per year. The point being, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) will have an impact even if doesn’t directly consume oil or it frees up that oil for other uses. That’s why it’s important to consider the cost of the electric that’s generated to “fuel” the Model S.
The concern is that we could be replacing pain at the pump with pain at the meter if, as some have suggested, our country would need to build the equivalent of 20 to 30 new nuclear power plants to recharge all of these Teslas, let alone the rest of the EVs hitting the marketplace. Worse yet, we could lose the benefit of all those zero-emission Teslas if the nation turned back to coal power to supercharge the growth of EVs. While those are legitimate concerns, the truth of the matter is actually pretty shocking.
Our nation’s electrical infrastructure is vastly underutilized. It is designed to meet peak demand and therefore runs at full capacity for only about 5% of the year. The rest of the time it could generate enough power to supply the energy requirements of 73% of the nation’s cars, pickup trucks, vans and SUVs, according to a 2007 study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (click here to review the findings — opens a PDF). That’s upwards of 200 million vehicles, meaning we could conceivably displace 6.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, or more than half of our nation’s oil imports.