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UC Berkeley Study Concludes Battery Switching Model Would Accelerate Mass-Market Adoption of Electric Cars; Baseline Scenario Projects EVs Reaching 64% of New LDV Sales in 2030

EV penetration with a battery swap model in three scenarios. Becker (2009). Click to enlarge.

A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology projects that, given a battery switching model and pay-per-mile contracts such as proposed by Better Place (earlier post), electric cars would account, in the baseline scenario, for 64% of US light-duty vehicle sales by 2030 and comprise 24% of the US light-duty fleet by then.

In two other scenarios considered, a high oil price scenario (using EIA projections) and a battery swap operator-subsidzied scenario, EV new vehicle sales penetration reaches 85% and 86% respectively by 2030.

“Electric Cars in the United States: A New Model with Forecasts to 2030” was written by Thomas Becker, a Ph.D. candidate in economics with a specialization in international finance and environmental economics.

The analysis in the paper relies on a network externality model focusing on relative prices, operating costs, and the network effects of battery switching stations. The high rate of adoption is driven by the low purchase price and operating costs of electric cars with switchable batteries. The estimates include the cost of installing charging and battery switching infrastructure to extend the range of electric vehicles.

In Becker’s analysis, eliminating the need for the consumer to purchase the large battery pack upfront makes the purchase price of an electric car competitive with that of an internal combustion vehicle. Given expected battery prices, and the federal tax incentives for the purchase of electric cars, switchable battery vehicles are expected to be $7,500 less expensive than a similar gasoline-powered car when introduced to the market in 2012. The total cost of ownership of these vehicles is expected to be between $0.10 and $0.13 lower on a per-mile basis than gasoline-powered cars, depending on the future price of oil.

Becker calculates that the baseline scenario would require networks of more than 800 overlapping regional charging infrastructure cells, each supporting 100,000 electric car drivers supporting roughly 81 million electric car drivers by 2030. Estimated capital expenditures to deploy this network would be nearly $321 billion over the next two decades.

Under the operator-subsidized scenario, the resulting 151 million electric car drivers by 2030 would require nearly twice as much infrastructure investment.

By 2030, the annual capital investment in charging infrastructure is estimated to account for between 1% and 1.5% of total US investment.

—Becker (2009)

Becker suggests that EV adoption will occur first in the West Coast states and Hawaii, and uses these for the modeled initial market for electric cars between 2012 and 2014. He projects networks of switchable electric cars being deployed across the remainder of the United States beginning in 2014. By 2020, 700,000 (26%) of the 2.7 million electric cars sold in the United States are forecast to be sold in the four West Coast States.

Electric vehicles will overhaul the US light-vehicle transportation network over the next two decades. An electric personal transportation network that combines switchable Lithium-ion batteries with network operators offering pay-per-mile contracts will provide consumers with a more affordable alternative to efficient internal combustion-powered vehicles and will overcome the range limits inherent to fixed-battery electric cars. It will also lower health-impairing and greenhouse gas emissions, provide new sources of domestic employment and investment, lower the nation’s dependence on imported oil, and improve the trade balance.

—Becker (2009)

This most recent study is fundamental because it shows that the economics of electric cars with today’s technology favor a paradigm shift in the automotive industry.

—Ikhlaq Sidhu, Director of Berkeley’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology



Stan Peterson

Academic studies are nice. Reality? Not in your wildest dreams. Requiring massive investments, with no partially completed system to be viable, is un-realistic and never the way the world actually works. Requiring a change in human nature is Dystopian and tried by many, and invariably FAILS. Usually with much spilled blood and treasure.

GIGO and worth a grade in a course, but nothing more.


OCC, this program does nothing to "take the battery cost out of the BEV". The customer still pays for the battery, but instead of a single monthly payment covering both car and battery he makes two separate monthly payments.

Total cost with swap is higher because each customer pays for more than one battery and also pays for the swapping stations. There are other costs, too, such as loss of flexibility in pack placement. These extra costs provide extended range (whether you want it or not). A small engine, e.g. Chevy Volt, also provides extended range with a dramatically smaller battery pack and no need for a $321 billion infrastructure buildout. But perhaps customers will pay extra for 100% electric operation. Time will tell.


I am a cheerful person.. I just also happen to be EVIL.. minded some times. There are all sorts of evil things I could do with a system like this.


Here's another idea for getting long range out of a BEV-


The battery swap schemes may just be another barrier to entry monopoly. It is not like a Jiffy Lube franchise, it is more like oil company filling stations and a utility. They would need standardization for others to compete and that does not lend itself to dominating the market.



' This program does nothing to "take the battery cost out of the BEV" '

Ultimately, that is true. I concur. However it does take *upfront* battery cost out of the BEV. This allows BEV to compare/compete with ICE cars in a much more LEVEL playing field. Put it another way, would you buy a $25K Camry for $43K and never have to pay for gas again for 150K miles (25mpg; $3/gal - how about $4/gal, or $8/gal in Europe and Isreal)?

BEV, as it stands without Better Place, can't compete effectively yet, exactly because of battery cost, or "included fuel cost", even with all the other important advantages and benefits.

Range is another detriment to BEV, but BP has that covered too. Also, battery cost will likely go down vs gasoline prices.


BTW doggydogworld:

With the Volt, you're paying THREE separate monthly payments: Car payment, electricity, and gasoline, and you're paying extra upfront for the 40miles battery.

Henry Gibson

AC propusion proved that lead batteries could be used in an electric car that had a range extender. Yes the cost of the battery is high. No the battery does not have to be the lightest longest range. Yes the range extender can work at xx thousand RPM for high power when needed. No. It does not need super high efficiency, but yes; it will be more efficient than a the average use of an automotive ICE, and it will not be used much. ZEBRA batteries have the range of many lithium batteries and have been use tested for more than 10 years. Yes they can become far less expensive if subject to mass manufacturing. Yes they can be made higher power. No I dont't get paid by MES-DEA. Yet! Yes they must be plugged in every other day or so. No they will not catch fire. Using very old technology may make a cheaper electric plug in hybrid. Motors with brushes are still demanded by some railroads. A very efficient diesel electric locomotive can be made without a single power semiconductor. ..HG..


Getting stuck without a minimum range isn't going to happen with leased batteries, because the batteries will be retired from vehicular use before they degrade that far.  But they won't be recycled at that point; they will have a second life doing utility load-levelling.  The total cost of the battery may go half to vehicular use and half to utility use; neither one pays by itself, but together they are profitable.


There are other ways to make BEV affordable: lease the car or the battery pack instead of selling it. Or guanrantee it: if it can't do 100 miles and is less than 5 years old, you have another one for free.

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