Fuel Switching to Electricity

Electricity is only used to a limited extent in the transportation sector. Diesel fuels (mid-distillates) power most rail trains in the U.S.; only a modest fraction are electric powered. Other electric transportation is limited to special situations, such as forklifts, in-factory transporters, etc.

In the 1990s electric automobiles were introduced to the market, spurred by a California clean vehicle requirement. The effort was a failure because existing batteries did not provide the vehicle range and performance that customers demanded. In the future, electricity storage may improve enough to win consumer acceptance of electric automobiles. In addition, extremely high gasoline prices may cause some consumers to find electric automobiles more acceptable, especially for around-town use. Such a shift in public preferences is unpredictable, so electric vehicles cannot now be projected as a significant offset to future gasoline use.

O'Conner, T. "Mahogany Research Project: Technology to Secure Our Future". Presentation at the DOE Shale Peer Review. February 19-20, 2004.

94 Smith, S.J. et al. "Near-Term US Biomass Potential." PNWD-3285. Battelle Memorial Institute. January 2004.

A larger number of train routes could be outfitted for electric trains, but such a transition would likely be slow, because of the need to build additional electric power plants, transmission lines, and electric train cars. Since existing diesel locomotives use electric drive, their retrofit might be feasible. However, since diesel fuel use in trains is only roughly 0.3 MM bpd,95 electrification of trains would not have a major impact on U.S liquid fuel consumption.

There are no known near-commercial means for electrifying heavy trucks or aircraft, so related conversions are not now foreseeable.

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