Samstag, 6. Juni 2009

The Future of the Car Industry

The Economist is running a leader on the future of the car industry.

It argues that the world will have 3 bn cars in 2050, as compared to 700 m cars today. China alone will have nearly as many cars as the entire world today.

No way.

Based on current projections, the world will have around 9 bn people in 2050, and China's population will be only slightly higher than today.

So those numbers would imply that worldwide, there would be 1 car for every three people (i.e. more than one car per household), and in China, there would be 1 car for every two people (roughly as many as in Western Europe today).

Apart from the (IMHO) rather unrealistic implied assumption that car ownership will soon begin to skyrocket in places like Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh and North Korea, there is one glaringly obvious problem:

Based on today's technologies, the world will struggle to keep the current 700 m cars fueled much earlier than 2050. Quadrupling that number will be totally impossible based on fossil fuels of any kind.

If electric cars do take off, the question is only shifted to power generation: How can the world possibly hope to create so much electric power to sustain both other uses of electricity (presumably also growing fast in the much richer world envisaged by The Economist), and 3 bn cars?

It's a ridiculous pipe dream, in my very humble opinion.


  1. Currently we using 80 million barell/day.
    If we want ot get that energy from nuclear power,then we will have to use 5333 one GW nuclear power plan.
    It is true if we replace the thermal energy content with electricity.
    If we use electric cars,then we could use 4 times car than now (the internal combustion power train have 25-30% efficiency )
    So,if we will build let say 6000 nuclear reactor,then we can do this.
    Of course,all of this reactors have to be breeder(Th-232,U-233 cycle,or fast neutron),with closed nuclear fuel cycle(reprocessing).

  2. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the world would need 6,000 nuclear reactors to power 3 bn electric cars. That wouldn't yet include all other uses of elecricity, right?

  3. Der Kommentar wurde von einem Blog-Administrator entfernt.

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  6. great post.. I like how you have presented the information in full detail. Keep up the great work and please stop by my Billet Grille site sometime. Keep it up..

  7. But even it didn't include any effficiency imprtovement.

    And from the other side, the US using roughtly the same ammount of primary energy for the electricity production like for the transportation (i mean,as much oil),but the final energy (due to the efficiency losses during the thermal->electricity conversion) is only 30% of the raw energy.

    So,it mean that roughtly other 2000 reactor could take care of the electricity demand.(of course even now we have reactors,and they are not included in this calculation)

    Just to be visual the discussion about the energy mix.
    The nuclear counting the electricity,without the thermical losses,the coal/nat.gas input are gross.

  9. I'm sure you've got the numbers and facts right. But I somehow find it hard to imagine that the world will build thousands of new nuclear reactors over the next 40 years.

  10. The Economist names the IMF as origin of the "3 billion cars" figure.

    Googleing around, I came across the IMF World Economic Outlook April 2008:

    "Projections derived from regressions based on a panel of countries suggest that the number of cars worldwide will increase by 2.3 billion between 2005 and 2050, and that the number of cars in emerging and developing
    economies will increase by 1.9 billion." (Page 142)

    It sounds as if they just did a fairly simple extrapolation. The figure is located in a section about climate change. Maybe it's just there to scare people, i.e. to urge them into doing more against climate change.

  11. On the peak of the nuclear boom the yearly capacity was roughtly 30 reactor/year.
    So,we have to build 500-700 reactor/year.The theoretical capacity was at that time 50-60 reactor/year,so we have to increase it by one magnitude.