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Petroleum Savings if all Passenger Vehicles in U.S. were Hybrids or EVs!

November 4, 2011

A month ago, I was asked the question: “What would be the impact on petroleum usage if all cars (passenger vehicles) in the U.S. energy efficient, such as Toyota’s Prius?” This discussion is all about how to derive a sound answer to this question.

The Toyota Prius is a four-door hatchback gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle with a 1.8-liter gasoline engine that produces 98 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque that’s used in conjunction with two electric motors and a special planetary gearset that functions as a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Total system power is 134 hp. According to Toyota, the 2012 Prius (standard model) has an EPA rating of 51 City / 48 Hwy, combined fuel economy estimate of 50 mpg – “which is tops in the hybrid game.” It is a 5-passenger car with a curb weight of 3,042 lb. (1,380 kg).

The analysis took into consideration U.S. passenger cars only. It excluded the 101 million other highway vehicles registered in the U.S. The analysis was review by a reputable independent 3rd consultant in New Jersey. The consultant’s comments were:

“I’ve done similar research and calculations within the last few months. I’m not crazy about the assumption – ‘straight line’ allocation of gasoline consumption. Motorcycles, for example, probably consume a very small amount of gasoline per vehicle per year compare to passenger cars and SUV’s. Nonetheless, even if you toss in SUV’s and tweak the ‘straight line’ assumption you might only get to 15-20% savings; so on an order of magnitude basis I’m in agreement.” SK

The analysis is as follows:


In closing, at first glance a 19% gross savings in petroleum consumption was considered somewhat low. If electric passenger cars, SUVs, motorcycles and other personal vehicles are taken into consideration, the savings becomes obviously much higher. The same goes with trucks and other vehicles, which at this time maybe under development for some level of hybridization and electrification.  Also, this analysis includes U.S. only, as other countries possible do the same, global petroleum consumption will be cut even further.

One item not included in the analysis is the source of imported petroleum. In a previous discussion “Economists’ View – Fossil Fuels Pose Major Threats to the U.S. Economy,” I summarized an April 2011 EIA report on the makeup of U.S. oil imports by country of origin. The report showed:

• 61.1% from Non OPEC countries
• 38.9% from OPEC Countries
• 22.6% from Canada
• 14.7% from all Persian Gulf countries
• 9.6% from Saudi Arabia
• 9.3% from Mexico
• 8.0% from Algeria
• 6.1% from Russia
• 4.5% from Iraq
• 4.4 from Colombia
• 4.0% from Algeria

From this perspective, a 19% reduction in petroleum consumption would potentially render all oil imports from Persian Gulf counties unnecessary, politics aside.

A final comment relates to the economic cost of replacing all 100% gasoline burning passenger vehicles to hybrids or even more expense EVs. Considering the purchase price of a Prius is about $25,000 (on the low side), the cost to replace 137 million passenger cars is about $3.4 trillion (less any trade deductions). By any measure, this is not a paltry number. Economics, financial stability and time will tell.

To the extent that all U.S. passenger cars would be powered by some level of electricity, one thing is certain that at the end of the day the environment and the citizens of the U.S. would become the ultimate beneficiaries.  The question is what will the U.S. and the rest of the world do?

Barry Stevens, PhD, is the Managing Director of TBD America, Inc. 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. michaellamprechtberlin permalink
    November 6, 2011 6:04 AM

    Yes, endeed we need a new cathegory of cars, which have an efficient consumption of energy. The technology is here. Why don`t use it?
    Ja, wir benötigen eine neue Kathegorie von Automobilen, die einen effizienten Energieverbrauch vorweisen. Die Technologie ist schon da. Warum sie nicht nutzen?

  2. November 7, 2011 7:58 AM

    Vor zwei Jahren habe ich ein kleines Auto gekauft.Der Benzinverbrauch ist wohl nicht so gut wie mit einem Volt oder einem Leaf. Aber ich muss auch auch keine Kraft vom Stromnetz kaufen. Ausserdem kostete mein schickes Chevrolet Aveo vom vorigen Jahr am Ende 2009 nur $12,000, und ich muss mich nicht bekümmern, um neue Batterien zu kaufen, wenn es notwendig wird. Ich bereue mich nicht, dass ich einen Aveo kaufte.

    Two years ago I bought a little car. Gasoline consumption is, of course, not as good as with a Chevrolet Volt or a Nissan Leaf, but neither do I need to buy electricity form the net. Besides, the cute Chevrolet Aveo as a last years’model at the end of 2009 only cost me $12,000 and I don’t need to worry about buying new batteries when it becomes necessary. I don’t regret that I bought an Aveo.


  3. January 21, 2012 3:27 PM

    Superb blog you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get suggestions from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Cheers!

  4. May 10, 2013 8:09 PM

    Great article and research Barry. I drive my Nissan Leaf for work now instead of my 16 mpg truck… It handles 99% of my driving needs. The emission savings for me are immense! I also save enough in gasoline expense to completely make the fully financed car payment! In 5 yrs when it’s paid off, whatever it is worth will be PROFIT! When’s the last time you heard of anyone making a profit on buying a new car? I can’t understand why more people don’r “get it” yet… a LOT of negative press by O&G, and even by US auto manufacturers. Ford has not even advertised that they HAVE a 100% EV at all! Seems like they WANT it to fail so they can say “see, US consumers don’t want EV’s”.

  5. December 21, 2013 6:23 PM

    Lauder’s own version of her spectacular rise from obscurity to the heights in both business and society..

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