What should be done to Accelerate Tesla Revolution?

What should be done to Accelerate Tesla Revolution? – In this article and several related articles, we will discuss the Tesla revolution. Namely a revolution in the field of vehicles from the mainstream using fossil fuels with its ICE engine into electric vehicles. So, to understand the overall course of the Tesla revolution, please refer to the following article links;

Makes Tesla Such an Important Part of the Ending Fuel Fossil Era?

What is Tesla’s history?

What Really is Elon Musk’s goal?

Tesla’s master plan doesn’t stop with cars, does it?

Is Cheap Solar Energy the other Driver of Tesla Revolution?

Will Electric Cars Really Take Over Before 2030?

Why is the Price of Electric Cars Declining so Rapidly?

How do developments in fuel cell cars compare to EVs?

What makes the Tesla Revolution so Different?

Are we ready to enter the EV era and leave ICE?

How Much Energy Does the World Need?

So Big Oil is Losing the Energy War?

What should be done to Accelerate Tesla Revolution?

Accelerate Tesla Revolution
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Imagine a world in the year 2050 where clean energy dominates the energy mix. How do current trends need to accelerate to reach this third phase in the Tesla Revolution? What scaling is needed in project investment, jobs, and research spending in clean energy in the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy sources?

In order for electric vehicles to form the majority of all cars on the road by 2050, sales need to grow from today’s 0.6 million to about 15 million by 2030, close to 50 million by 2040, and 100 million by 2050, also assuming growth to 2 billion cars. At this pace, about two out of three cars sold by 2050 will be electric. Since the manufacturing capacity is already there in the car industry, existing factories would need to be retooled from combustion to battery-based cars.

The biggest challenges are the large expansion in battery production and the need to provide input minerals lithium and cobalt. At this rate of expansion, three times more lithium needs to be mined by 2030 than today, and 25 times more by 2050. Cobalt production would need to double by 2030, and grow six-fold by 2050. Large investments in lithium mining, as well as battery recycling, are needed, as otherwise, we will run out of known lithium in the ground at the end of this century. Current known cobalt reserves would run out within a few decades at this pace of growth, with limited respite from the wider resource base. Substituting cobalt in batteries is thus essential for the long-term success of electric cars unless a virtuous battery recycling chain with low losses can be established. 

If we want to get to a world with a 50%+ share of clean energy in the electricity mix globally before 2030, and 75% by 2050, we need 10 and 20 times the installed number of solar panels, and 5 and 10 times the installed wind power capacity existing today. Even, if we assume the majority of coal and oil generation is phased out, electricity production would still double in this conservative scenario, while natural gas stays at its current share in electricity generation. The jump needed to make this happen is actually quite low. The current global manufacturing capacity for solar panels would need to quadruple in the next 15 years, and windmill production triple and both would have to stay at those levels until 2050.

In a conservative cost assumption—a 20% and 30% cost reduction for wind and solar by 2050 respectively, plus cost reductions due to greater solar panel output—annual investments for the scenario above need to approximately expand 2.5 times by 2030 in the wind and solar and remain at that level. In 2015 we spent $270 billion on installing solar and wind power, or 0.4% of the size of the global economy in the gross domestic product (GDP), and $125 billion on fossil fuel generation. In comparison, spending on fossil fuel generation in the 1970s was around 0.6% of global economic wealth, and since the 1980s close to 0.2%.34 The additional costs we need to bear to accelerate the transition are thus high but not extraordinary. Fossil fuel savings are not even factored in, on which we spent a minimum $600 billion in 2015 for electricity generation. 

Accelerate Tesla Revolution

The biggest materials impact of this electricity switch would be on silver since its use for solar panels needs to quadruple by 2030 if no further efficiencies are made. Solar panels today comprise 8% of global silver demand, so a lot more silver mining will be needed. Input needs for other materials like steel, aluminum, glass, concrete, and copper are relatively small compared to global production, and silicon is easily scalable. Jobs in solar and wind manufacturing and installation would need to increase from about 4.4 million today to 12 million by 2030, and 20 million by 2050, which also is within the realm of possibilities. 

On top of the investments in expanding capacity, we need to work harder on cracking the tough nuts. How can we replace natural gas use? Make battery electricity solutions for the grid for 24-hour periods more affordable? Improve solar panel efficiency from 17% today to over 30% in the next decades? Create a technically workable solution for seasonal and day-to-day storage? Find fuel alternatives for trucking, shipping, and flight? Provide industrial heat from clean energy? Replace not so abundant materials like silver? Make biofuels from non-food crops available at a commercial scale?

The amount of research spending and time to lead to successive breakthroughs for each of these questions will be tens of billions of dollars over decades. It took $45 billion in research spending to achieve the rapid improvements in solar panels from 2005 to 2015 and $16 billion for wind energy. Just for wind and solar we thus needed about $6 billion per year to get to where we are. Today total government energy research spending is close to $19 billion per year,36 with about three times as much corporate spending. We have 20 to 30 energy domains that we need to sink money into, resulting in a total spending need of $160 to $240 billion per year to make rapid progress in most of these fields. 

Enhanced space for medium-sized energy tech companies to innovate and explore new options is essential. In this effort we need to have a willingness to ‘waste’ money on technology firms at levels of technology demonstration to commerciality, since for every one company that is a success about 10 others will go bankrupt. Larger collaboration in research via targeted $100+ million funding sums and programs—instead of multibillion-dollar ‘moon-shot programs’ like nuclear fusion, and thousands of tiny few million-dollar research grants—would also help.

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