I'm developing a world where all car manufacturers must switch to producing only electric cars like Tesla, Leaf. All the other cars (gas, hybrids, whatever) will be banned. Vehicles already produced will have to be retired in 2 years, the owners will receive compensation for the remaining value of their vehicle, and the vehicles will be destroyed. There will be a financing plan for people to buy electric cars.

What would the cost for the economy be besides paying the owners for their used cars and enabling them to acquire other vehicle?


I don't care about lawsuits, filibustering, protests, sentimental value of cars etc. I assume that the government could do it and people won't complain too much if they're not feeling ripped off.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 15:34

11 Answers 11


Are you willing to let the technology mature a little more first or are you going for it now with current technology?

Right now we have a range problem, tied to an infrastructure problem. You get a few hundred miles at best then you have to stop for 24 hours.


Tesla have fast charger technology but no significant infrastructure yet. Something similar would have to be available basically everywhere there's currently a petrol station along with cafés or otherwise while the drivers sit around waiting for the car to charge. There's space for a business model there. Capacity on the stations would have to be significantly increased, currently you can refuel and pay within about 10 mins, even on a fast charger you're looking at minimum 30mins, to maintain the same capacity on the fuel stop you need 3 times as many chargers as you currently have pumps. I suspect an entirely different charging station model would need to be introduced compared to the current petrol station model.

Power consumption

Currently the UK has a power supply shortage as well. If there are unforeseen problems at a couple of major plants and no wind, the wholesale power price spikes due to shortage of generation. By pushing everyone to electric cars you're putting significant extra load on an already stretched system.

The UK does around 800 billion passenger miles per year. At the efficiency of a 2009 Tesla, (32 kW-hrs/100 mi) that comes to 256 TWh/year, Great Britain's total generating capacity is 75.3GW or 660TWh/year. That increases load on the system by over 30% of total capacity (disclaimer: numbers are very rough estimates) Unfortunately this is a killer for the project, nobody can increase energy generation capacity that fast, but we'll carry on regardless.

Primary cost summary

Once you've laid down the legislation to force everyone onto electric cars, these are your primary costs.

  • Slower road transport due to limited range
  • lack of charging infrastructure
  • lack of power generation capacity

You have a couple of other considerations, including that electric cars are a thing, electric commercial vehicles are not yet. Perhaps overhead power lines on motorways for large vehicles could be considered, and the return of trolleybuses to the streets of our cities (this is happening in some places).

Next we get into the secondary costs that are not insignificant.

Out with the old

You've just filled every scrapyard in the land with cars. In 2008, the UK government ran a scrappage programme that returned £2000 for each car scrapped over a certain age.


This happened. That's estimated to be a 14,000 car backlog in just one location that all need to be scrapped under the rules of the scheme. You're going to be giving up a massive amount of space to just storing these vehicles while they're waiting to be scrapped. There were 35 million vehicles on the road in Great Britain in 2013, you're asking to scrap and replace almost every single one over two years. In the same year 2.75 million new vehicles were registered, this rises every year, just for one country you're going to need to up that to over 17million to fill the gap.


There are minor job losses here and there, the skilled workers, the old mechanic up the road who kept your family's cars running for three generations is now an unskilled worker. The big oil companies will shed jobs like water off a duck, the haulage companies will drop tanker drivers. Docks and shipping will lose jobs related to oil tankers. Lots of job losses for the old school, but job gains for the expanded and related industries, in theory it's probably a net balance on job numbers but it will be an upheaval all the same. There's going to be a big spike in employment in scrap metal and infrastructure that will look good in the short term.

In with the new

Battery production is not up to speed by a long way, this will be hard to be hard to ramp up, but not impossible. Car manufacturing rates are also way off the mark and a surge like this will cause a massive slump for the next few years and then another surge at the end of life for this wave of vehicles. The boom and bust cycles you're going to trigger in the automotive related industries will take decades to settle.


Finally and most damningly, the environmental cost is phenomenal, it's going to massively outweigh any gains you might think you're getting from this programme.

Berners-Lee estimates that a rough guide to the carbon footprint of a car is 720kg for every £1,000 you spend on it. So let’s take the example of a typical family car, a Volkswagen Golf. With emissions of 123g/km, running a brand-new 1.4 TSI S 5-door for 40,000 miles – or about five years’ use for the average private car driver – would produce a total of just over 7.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide. But with a list price of £19,400, producing the car will incur around 14 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, making a total of 22 tonnes, according to Berners-Lee’s theory.

How does that compare with buying a 10-year-old Golf (right) instead, or keeping your old one? Let’s take a similar model from 10 years ago, the first of the fifth-generation models. A 1.6 FSI S 5-door emitted 163g/km of carbon dioxide. Let’s add on 10g/km to account for the engine going out of tune with age. Even so, the total amount of carbon dioxide produced in your five years’ motoring only adds up to 11 tonnes’ worth, half that involved in buying a new car.

If you multiply this environmental footprint up for all the cars you're building and scrapping before end of life that you wouldn't have done without this programme it'll swamp any benefits you would have gained had you run the programme over 20 years.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ Nitpick: your calculation for the energy requirements appears to assume every journey is a single-occupant car... $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ @frodoskywalker given the level of accuracy in the calculations that's a minor detail. It's only the order of magnitude that matters. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree; even a factor of 2 would make ramping up power production dramatically more possible. That said, power supply is one of the smaller problems with this plan, so it's moot. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 14:10

The costs and inefficiencies will be enormous.

Let's use the US as the obvious starting point. Current automobile registrations are about 255 million vehicles. For most people, personal transportation is necessary, since housing (rural or suburb) is widely separated from place of employment, place of goods purchase, schools, hospitals, etc. In the long run this can change, of course, but a 2-year deadline is simply too short to allow much accomodation. Let's assume that car-pooling and car sharing (such as Uber) allow consolidation to 100 million vehicles. As a further assumption, the first year will be occupied simply in building the factories needed for both parts production (especially batteries, but equally for all parts) and vehicle assembly. The second year will see actual vehicle production.

Current US vehicle production is about 18 million vehicles per year, with direct production employment of about 1 million persons. This means that the production year will require a vehicle production rate about 5 to 6 times as great as currently occurs. Additionally, an extra 5 million workers will need to be found, and it's not clear where they will come from.

The obvious choke point in terms of parts is batteries. I'll assume that lead-acid and nickel-cadmium batteries are off the table due to environmental concerns involving lead and cadmium. I'll further assume that lithium batteries will be the dominant technology. This article suggests a lithium requirement on the order of 400 g of lithium per kWh of battery, and using the Volt battery pack (18.4 kWh) as a baseline produces a lithium requirement of 736,000 tonnes. Current world production of lithium is about 32,500 tonnes, so world production will need to be ramped up by a factor of 20. Just as with the production of the vehicles themselves, it is not possible to spread the production over the two years. Mining depends on heavy equipment, and these machines have a very long lead time. Additionally, operators will need to be found and trained, and processing plants constructed. Likewise battery production plants must be built and staffed. Given the short deadline, it does not seem feasible to invoke robotic assembly lines. This would require, in effect, the construction of large production plants to produce the robots themselves, and this will add to delays in achieving final production. This sort of infrastructure expansion is fairly painless over decade time scales, but 2 years is catastrophically short.

To make matters worse, these massive investments in upgrading capacity cannot be amortized over a long period. After the two-year deadline demand for the product will fall precipitously, although there will be a follow-up period when more than replacement levels will be needed to fill demand by people who are severely inconvenienced by car pooling and such. However, a second year of peak production will raise the number of vehicles available to 200 million, and demand will then essentially be at replacement level. Since at this point virtually all operating vehicles will be less than 2 years old, demand will drop catastrophically, and among other things you'd expect massive layoffs among production workers. Conceivably the government could intervene by stockpiling vehicles at the projected long-term replacement rate, but this has its own difficulties. To begin with, stored vehicles will deteriorate, and it would be an unusual government program of this nature which got the numbers right. Political pressure to either overbuy (to appease the manufacturers/miners) or underbuy (to save money at a time when the massive expenditures involved in ramping up production produce calls to cut back spending) would certainly distort any decision-making process.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ It's obvious what would actually happen - everyone is going to ignore the deadline, and they'll expect it will be extended. Two years simply isn't anywhere near enough - it would result in massive waste, untenable social issues (people unable to get to work, employees being laid off after a burst of activity, huge amounts of wasted capital...). And that's without accounting for the necessary increase in electricity production, as well as the huge surplus of fuel (you can't just stop refineries, or replace the other products of oil processing). $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan and 2 years later everyone will be without a car as the enforcement agencies go through every town and village, impounding every combustion engine still in existence at gunpoint, all "for the environment", giving the control freaks their ideal society where nobody is able to travel except by government controlled public transport (which will no doubt be excempt from the requirement to use electric engines only). $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @jwenting Well, that's what all those freaks want, isn't it? To make everyone so poor they can't afford to harm the environment :D After all, the worst part of our impact on the environment is the fact that there's so fricking many of us - cut it down to a hundred million, and everyone is happy, right? :D $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan, the problem is that people think they have a right to travel, we should go back to the days when nobody traveled more than about 5 miles from where they were born apart from market days and the very wealthy. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 8:56

Briefly, electric cars and associated non-fossil-fuel industries are on the verge of economic feasibility. To make it happen, you need a little more technological progress, and a vast amount of capital investment. The new infrastructure required could include:

  • Cheaper and more efficient solar panels, or another energy source.
  • Cheaper, more durable, and probably less-polluting battery technology.
  • Huge quantities of installed solar panels, or another "green" energy industry, and a vast industry manufacturing, selling, and maintaining them.
  • Resupply stations, where you could recharge or replace your batteries.
  • On-road recharging, such as overhead power lines, or surface induction coils, where you could recharge on the move, plus an associated identification and billing infrastructure.

This list just contains some ideas. It is not complete, nor is it wholly internally consistent.

As others have said, two years is not long enough to build the required infrastructure.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 15:35

What would be the cost for the economy?

To achieve the goal they need to build new factories - for cars, for batteries, infrastructure to support recharging cars in a situation up to a level where everyone will be able to recharge, build energy source plants of any kind, upgrade the currently existing energy grid maybe - all that is not a problem in general.

The problem is that they should do so in short time, 2 years, but ok - that is understandable when thinking about global warming, etc., but as for the economy - what will those people do, who did the work, after the work is done? Barely 10% of them are needed to maintain and develop that system further.

The problem for the economy will be solving the existence of those 90%.


Everything below is not the original answer, everything above is.

Notes, not answer related, and not OP Q related, but about comments and other answers, and some thoughts about electric cars and electric grid, using the UK as an example.

TL;DR The electric grid is not a problem and improving it will cost a few percent of cars as a price. The existence of all electric cars can improve the current capacities of electricity production and it needs only a few million electric cars. To fully enjoy those improvements 100% autonomous mode has to be enabled in those cars, however, it is not necessary.

  • People started to discuss how is that doable at all considering the grid problems which electric cars will create. I see many free internet points for an answer which depicts all those difficulties, so I decided to summarize my comments in this answer, as I did some research (as I think) and have come up to a slightly different conclusion. As the UK was the main example in the most liked answer I decided to use UK data.


An interesting grid status for the UK can be found here

At the moment it looks like this: UK grid, 11:00pm

As it shows on the gauges 45GW is ok, 55GW is almost ok, 70 GW max. The grid has no storage system and has up to 3.5GW export/import capabilities. (the gauges are wrong a bit, probably).

CCGT - combined cycle gas turbines: they are used to compensate peak for demands and they generate 22.5GW, which is almost half of the consumption.

Thanks to @Luaan's comment we have some data about cars and people in the UK as to what they produce - 800 billion passenger-miles per year or about 1,280 billion passenger-km per year.

Thanks to this video, shot at a Tesla center, the average is 290Wh/km (119'350'654kWh, 410'139'703 km). 210Wh/km is also practically achievable with a Tesla Model S, with 90 km/h speed limits. (not for X though, but it is expected that Tesla Model 3 will be more efficient in terms of Wh per km - because it will be a smaller car)

1,280 billion passenger-km per year means the UK has to add on average +42GW to its current power generation. 2 times more than they generate at the ok level, or to add 4/7 of what they can generate at maximum power production.

In 2014 there were about 31 million of cars in the UK, according to this source.

Looking at grid graphs, I see the average energy consumption/generation is about 32-33GW (from CSV average for this month is 33.7GW, so my eye guesses are good enough), in January about 37GW, February-March - something around 35GW.
Maximum for October-November was 48GW power consumption, the minimum was 22GW.

The difference between low and high during a day is about 15GW.

31 million electric cars with a 100kWh battery pack each are capable of storing up to 4 days of the average (32GW) energy production of the entire UK. This is a lot of buffer capacity.

If each car is connected to the grid for 6 hours a day they can backup 1 day of energy production for the UK. (not just for the peaks, but for the total energy production. For the peaks maybe 2 hours a day will be enough)

Grid energy production/consumption fluctuation, storage

The Wind can fluctuate from 0 to 8 GW - cars can average wind fluctuation completely for 16 days. Average wind for October-November is 2.5GW, dips in energy production are about 1 day long. Maximum for October-November was 6.6GW.

CCTG - average generation 17GW(Oct-Nov), 23.8GW maximum for the same period. This means they can produce +5.8GW on average and by that improve the cost efficiency of current installations. Potentially they can produce +30% more energy for the same installation price (which is about 1/3 of the generated energy cost, so about 10% improvement), and for higher maintenance cost, but they will work at a steady rate and that will improve their overall efficiency as a heat engine.

The nuclear average is 7.8GW, maximum is 8.34GW. The source says they work at maximum almost all time, energy fluctuations are the result of maintenance - so not much to gain here.

Coal - average 3.2GW, max 8.3GW - this source can produce +5.1GW, and used in average on 3/8 of its capacity, 100% use will increase efficiency in the same way as with CCTG.

Solar is not existing at the moment, so there are no numbers here.

Export - on average (October-November) the UK imports 0.6GW, peaks are -3.3GW:+3.3GW


The UK grid can produce in its current state +10.9GW (Oct-Nov) with an average production of 33.7GW at the same period.

With an average price (US) of 100\$ per MWh - 784'800'000\$ per month or 9'417'600'000\$ per year, with exactly the same production capacity. (it is not profit, just turnover)

Also, it would be possible to export +3GW more energy from UK energy importers (by using export/input lines just for import only).

The UK could, with no capital costs for building new power plants, increase their power generation/consumption by about 14GW

  • I am not sure about the grid itself, how much it can redistribute, but it looks like 18 oct 2016, 12:00-12:15 Dr. Who was able to recharge his Tardis at 130GW consumption rate - seems like there is no problem here. Joke. No problems here, just from common sense.

For cars they need 42GW, so they should improve their production by 28GW. Peak production is 48GW (October-November) and those 28GW will be about 58% increase in power generation capabilities.

  • An interesting document about electricity generation costs pdf, page 16. CCGT time to build (2-year development, 3 years building), fastest of them all as expected.

  • Wikipedia List of offshore wind farms in the United Kingdom: it looks like 3-4million £ per 1MW power. The cost of energy is about 2-3 times more than for CCTG.
    This way CCTG +28GW - will cost about 28 billion £ to build. CCS adds about 10% to energy cost(at the moment) and wind turbines +28GW - will cost... I don't know, considering that they produce about 2 times less then they can, I do not know which MW to use, but 100 billions or more.

  • 28 billion £ per 31 million cars - is about 1000 £ per car, with current prices on models S it is only a few percent of the cost of the car. So producing a car is a major problem in terms of capital costs.

Why a car is better than just a storage

Most of the time it is the end user, for that electricity.

With autonomous mode (google, amazon, Tesla) they can travel to a place where they are needed, and at a time when they are needed - to recharge themselves. They can be managed in a way which grid needs the most, at any given time day/night.

Where are people at the time, there is energy consumption increase - because they are at work (or at home) and it is very convenient if they (the people) bring not only themselves but also energy, for their work/home.

Parking buildings will be not just a waste of space for car storage, but also a part of the energy redistribution network, another way to stimulate solving a parking problem.

It is possible to share expenses of creating that battery on wheels between government/electric companies and the car owner.

Sharing a car as tesla master plan suggests, may reduce the amounts of cars needed to produce to cover transportation needs.

Why electric plants, which burn oil, are better than gasoline car

A few moments here.

They can be more efficient than the combustion engine of a car.
No need to produce different varieties of gasoline, cracking oil, refine oils - reduce wasting of energy, improve overall efficiency.
No need for gasoline additives - less pollution.
CO2 can be captured and stored (CCS - Carbon Capture and Storage) from those plants(in testing) and used by growing plants (in use in the Netherlands).

This may stimulate the use of carbon conductors (NASA is working on that for air/space crafts). The motivation is not just to capture and store carbon, but use carbon (partial burning). Improvements in carbon CNT manufacturing will improve many technologies, including electricity generation and transfer. And may actually reduce Aluminum and Fe production and save energy we use to produce this stuff.


Those notes are not necessary for this answer, but it just so happened.

  • $\begingroup$ Using cars for energy storage certainly sounds nice, and it would be a great use for excess nightly capacity if enough people can mostly survive on charging through the night. Though I'd suspect it might be a lot more complicated in practice - e.g. the car owners might no be all that happy about their batteries dying faster because they're used as power storage for the grid. But I guess we'll see - it seems there's enough serious projects to try this now :) $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 16:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Luaan yes sure. UK wish to significantly improve renewable sources eproduction, and for those plants to be cost efficient they must have a storage. With cars they can share this storage with car owner, by paying the owner some price for right to use his car for that purpose. Energy producing plant and car owner - do not need that battery 100% of time. Owner may get some payment on his work by supplying work place with electricity, by having the car on work place parking. In general it depends how efficient is a battery as buffer system, sharing is a way to improve cost efficiency of solution. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 17:10

You never explained which culture this was set in, its type, or its size. (Though some answers are assuming the particulars of whichever country they choose and showing that they are not suitable for this plan.)

The implication is that it is not a totalitarian regime, or in any case the economic success of the entire population is the goal.

Now it might very well be a small kingdom, not a continent-spanning superpower.

What is the previous situation? Suppose they don’t have “suburbs” and it is not a car-culture. Public transportation works. Most people don’t own personal cars: the shift will involve mostly commercial fleets and cars used for business.

The shift to all electric might be part of a plan to reap some economic advantage, in the context of its trading partners and neighbors. Maybe it is part of a political stance taken against petrolium import, and this has significance that overshadows the immediate economic issues.

So, common people won’t notice much, only that their taxi is new. Tradesmen that use a vehicle will need to work with the program, and they may be all for it if they come out ahead! In the old situation, fuel is probably very expessive and they’re already maximizing their efficiency via hybrids. In the new situation, electric charging will be cheap, supplied by other forms of local energy production. He just needs the buy-in for having to buy a new vehicle and the price of batteries.

Now this could go either way depending on the details of the program. Mr. Plumber may vey well love to get a new vehicle and ditch the fuel expense, but it's a capital expense and if he could afford that he would have already. If he’s forced to come up with this new expense he will be angry.

Now the electric vehicle pays for itself in some number of years, and the old vehicle would need replacing anyway in some number of years. If the deal is good enough that he sees an immediate benefit, then he’ll jump at the oppertunity.

There will be as many different stories there as cars.

The cost for the economy as a whole will be an investment in a drastic change of infrastructure. You asked for cost but the up-front costs will be applied against gains moving forward, so is that really the meaningful question?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ the moment the electricity company has a stranglehold on peoples' mobility, electricity prices are bound to go through the roof, ESPECIALLY if the government has their grubby hands in there as well. There are already calls to tax electricity for charging cars at the same level as gasoline in order to "maintain government income"... $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ Who needs an electricity company monopoly? Anyone can produce at the site where it is needed. A parking lot with photovoltaic awnings will not need to part of any central system. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 7:17
  • $\begingroup$ Not really. Those can help, but won't generate even a fraction of the required electricity for all those cars. And in places like Scandinavia and Canada, where there are long periods where there's hardly if any sunlight (and/or the panels are covered in snow, leaves, etc. etc.) it's even worse. Plus the cost (both financial and environmental) of building and placing, then maintaining and replacing all those panels every few years (they're rather fragile) would be staggering, not something most car owners and (certainly smaller) companies are capable and willing to bear $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 6:51
  • $\begingroup$ <ctd> with larger companies just offloading the cost on their customers (which often include the government) so prices of goods and services, as well as taxes, would go up markedly. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 6:54
  • $\begingroup$ «places like…» as I stated, I’m not picking places where things won’t work. I’m supposing the story takes place somewhere where it will work, and has various factors making this a viable scenareo. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 11:40

Electric cars will happen on their own. The real problem...

Fossil fuels are a huge portion of US energy consumption, but transportation only covers 27% of energy use. That's because most energy is used in construction, industry, and regular electricity/AC/heating uses.

enter image description here

enter image description here

Given the leaps in automated driving technology and solar energy collection in the past decade, it's not hard to imagine an all autopilot, all electric car culture in just a decade or two. The thing is...

Cars are an easy problem to solve

Good enough batteries, good enough autopilot, and enough charging stations, and BOOM - the market makes electric cars an attractive option all on their own, no major cultural or legal interventions to force it to happen.

But the real problem is freight transport and grid-level power storage.

Renewable energy is great...as long as the source plays nicely.

You can get all the solar the sun gives you, until it's night time.

Until we have a good grid storage solution, all the subsidies in the world would pale in comparison to the energy stored in the superior fossil fuel batteries: oil, coal, and natural gas.

Likewise, the massive cargo ships that overwhelmingly dominate and constitute international trade completely rely on diesel fuel to make the long journeys from Shenzhen, China, to Long Beach, California.

Sorry to throw a wrench in your question here, but like I said, cars are an easy problem to solve. Enough improvements in existing tech will make them attractive to the market by themselves. But the real problem is replacing the sheer usefulness of grid-storage-capable fossil fuels.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Simply burning the same fossil fuel in a large powerplant instead of an internal combustion engine almost doubles the energy you can get out of it, purely for heat engine efficiency reasons, even accounting for electric transmission loss. Add to that regenerative braking, and you have halved the total transportation energy consumption even if you didn't change the source of that energy. $\endgroup$
    – Peteris
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 15:21
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Thank you @Peteris, that is essentially my point. We all think of fossil fuels as mostly being a car problem, because that's where most people interact with fossil fuels. Not everybody works in freight or heavy industry or energy, so a lot of people have a skewed idea of where our fuels come from and where they are used. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 15:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I wish more people would realize what you discuss in the section "cars are an easy problem to solve". I discuss it some in worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/9337/29. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 16:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ With fully autonomous car, storage is not a problem - at least cars are not a problem here and they can indeed help to solve it. Basically it is a storage system on a wheels. If autonomous option is enabled they can suck energy at time and place where it needed, because most people are at work mostly and cars can choose time and place to charge. At some extend they can make gap between day/night a bit more narrow. As for solar panels - day peak is common argument about them, but I should ask, why electricity cost more at the day time, I guess they may help make it a bit cheaper. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Peteris: OTOH, your pure EV is inefficient because it has to haul around all those heavy batteries. For as direct a comparison as I can think of, the Tesla Roadster weighs in at 1305 kg, the Lotus Elise only 914 kg. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 4:57

Can't be done. In addition to the problems already mentioned, like producing that many cars and the related infrastructure in that short a time frame, you have to deal with the fact that a great many people either can't afford a new(ish) car at all, or are not willing to waste their money on one.

Take me as an example. I am, if not actually rich, certainly prosperous. Yet I've never purchased a new car (which is one of the reasons WHY I'm prosperous - I've never wasted money on car loans or depreciation :-)) My current vehicles are a 2000 Honda Insight (owned for 13 years), and a 1988 Toyota pickup. So even though I COULD shell out $50-100K or more for a new EV, I'm not going to unless you have me at the point of a gun. I think there are enough people like me to organize a successful revolution against anyone who tried it, too.

Then there is the fact that, at least with current technology, EVs do not have a long useful life. If the battery in my Insight hybrid is any guide, it will lose about half its capacity in a decade. Which means your industrial base has also be capable of producing replacement batteries, if not entire new vehicles, at an affordable price.

Finally, the current crop of EVs are basically suited to short (by the standards of the western US, anyway) daily commutes. A lot of (sub)urbanites could find one useful as a second vehicle (though far more energy would be saved by telecommuting), but they don't meet the needs of most of the rural population.

  • $\begingroup$ will it cost 15000$ will you ? $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 16:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg: Maybe, if it meets my needs. But (quite off topic), I wouldn't buy any car with a touch screen, talking GPS, 'infotainment' system, and so on. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 17:48

It is quite difficult to estimate the total value of all cars in circulation but this article puts the value of used car sales in the UK in 2014 at around 45 billion pounds although this is of course only a fraction of the total number in circulation.

With 7.2 million sales this gives an average price of around £6200 which seems reasonable.

UK government statistics report around 35 million registered vehicles as of 2013. Which gives us a tenuous estimate of value of around 200 billion.

There is also a problem with compulsory purchase at the book value in terms of fairness. Many people, especially those on low incomes own cars which are worth little or nothing but meet their needs. But if you own a 15 year old ford worth £500 and you get compensated its full value how can you possibly afford a brand new car costing tens of thousands.

There is also the problem that you need to replace millions of vehicles in a short period at the same time as radically changing the technology they use. The investment in re-tooling factories will be huge as well as the financial losses associated with suddenly obsolete engine plants.

Another issue it that it takes energy and materials to build a new car so replacing every car on the road in a short time will cost a huge amount of energy which needs to come from somewhere not to mention that all electric vehicles require specific materials such as copper and lithium which are already in high demand.

Assuming you can find the cash to do this you might well have a short term boom in manufacturing but after the initial surge you are left with huge over-capacity which represents yet more waste and it would be almost impossible to attract the investment required to turn over production in such a short time with no realistic prospect of long term returns.

Even if you had a centralised soviet style economy and could source all of the materials required domestically this still represents a huge waste of resources as you are effectively throwing away the energy and materials used for 10+ years of car production. Even form a purely 'green' perspective this makes very little sense.

There is also the fact electric cars, in of themselves, don't necessarily achieve much. Electricity is a medium for distributing energy not a source of it and unless you have the infrastructure in place to meet the increased demand (in terms of both capacity and availability) through 'green' energy generation the whole exercise is pointless.


I am going to try to make this a lost of costs and not a lists of "why it can't happen yet", but some of the costs are from the same problems as the list of "can't happen yet".

  1. Your financing plans. There will be a ton of defaulting on those plans. I currently replace a car about once every 10 years. So to have to replace a car again so soon, I would not be in a financial spot to do so, and if I resented having to do so, or didn't absolutely love the car, I would just default on the loan. Again because I am forced into it, it's not a question of ability to pay, it's a question of desire to pay.

  2. Enforcement. You will have to set aside a LARGE amount of money for the enforcement of the no "gas cars" rule. Keep in mind that even if you don't license the car, people still drive it. Even if you pull over ever car you see being driven, those people still get their day in court. What are you going to do about a gas car that is sitting in someone’s driveway? Without local laws preventing it, your gas car could sit there forever.

  3. Infrastructure. Right now, charging stations are few and far between. This would need to change. I need to be able to charge at the store, charge at the diner, charge at the office, charge at the movie etc. etc. None of these places support 100% of their user base charging right now. Some of the ones in my area may have 10 charging stations, in a parking lot ment to hold thousands of cars. What about automated garages, they will need to be upgraded and replaced to support charging. In fact the very way we charge would need to change, or parking lots would need to be larger to accommodate the charging stations.

  4. Infrastructure. Right now the little extra electricity devoted to charging a car is minimal. In your future it would be substantial, requiring more electricity generation and better grids to get it where it needs to be.

  5. Legal fees. Even if you assume no suing over the car swap itself, you are going to have a horrid mess when it comes to things like retail establishments rented a location because it has 500 parking spots. Now with the new machines it only has 450 parking spots. There will be other suites like a new parking garage that was supposed to be cost effective over 50 years is now 100% pointless because it can't retrofit the chargers, or the cost of fitting those chargers is too high.

  6. Cost fixing, price gouging, fairness of distance. So right now my car can go 500 miles for $20. I expect my new, forced on me electric car to do the same. That means the cost of charging would need to go way down. Currently the cost is way too high.

  7. Economics. What about the poor people that got their car for free from a charity? How are they supposed to afford a new car? Now the government will have to supplement them. Same on charging. The government will need to supplement charging. This isn't as big an issue if you have a little money, but if you have 0 money, then you can't pay for the charge home from work.

  8. Logistics. What are semi-trucks going to run on? A lot of distribution in this country depends on trucks. What is going to happen there?

  9. Distance, I frequently drive 400 miles or more. Best I can find in current electric cars is around 100 miles. In the US that will not get many people back and forth to work (though many people it will), and for a lot of people will not cover weekend activities. This means that distances to parks and other recreation will need to be shorter, more stores per square mile, and other such things. Keep in mind that the US is "wide spread" because we have lots of land. This is not true in other countries.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ From an enforcement perspective this will be reasonably easy. Make the fossile fuels increasingly difficult to obtain (by taxation) and eventually put that ecosystem out of business. Obviously classic car enthusiasts will import black market fuel from some oil rich state but eventually people will just have to go with the flow. Unless all the political parties agree to this unanimously there will be continuous churn in party favour as another party will agree to change back to the good old ways if elected. $\endgroup$
    – KalleMP
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 7:03
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with that, but that's not going to happen at the 2 years mark. Look at incandescent bulbs. There illegal to ?manufacture? now, but you can still get them just about anywhere. $\endgroup$
    – coteyr
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 10:07

2 problems:

  • There are about 1 billion cars in the world. With a remaining value of a few thousand dollars, that thousands of billions of dollars. Where would the money come from?

  • In 2012, 60 million cars were produced. That means it would take 17 years to replace all the existing cars, with the current means of production. To replace cars with electric cars, we need to built 10 times as many factories as we have now, all dedicated to electric cars. What will those factories do after?

  • $\begingroup$ I will never understood why so many people are always thinking, we have to replace an entire car to get a car with a different motor. What’s the point in producing new seats, new windows, a new steering wheel, new tires, new mirrors, new lights, new windshield wipers and washers, a new body (optimizing its weight has a point but is not mandatory), just because we want a different motor? $\endgroup$
    – Holger
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Holger details. We produce 60 million cars, so about 60 millions motors every year. We need to replace that by the production of 60 million electric motor. Plus having the man power in every place where people have car to change the engine, and fit whatever needs to be fit on the car. The point being that the change of scale is enormous. $\endgroup$
    – njzk2
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 19:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Holger Not just a different motor, sadly. You need a new frame to house the motor and the batteries. It's not as easy as replacing a gasoline engine with an electric engine and stuffing the batteries in the fuel tank. You likely also need a different transmission, and possibly even a brake system. Now compare producing 60 million cars in a factory with replacing 60 million engines and tanks and everything in the wild. Factories are rather more efficient than car shops, you see, and they don't have enough capacity by far. $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ @njzk2: In Germany, every car has to go to a mandatory inspection every two years (after the first admission, it three years for one time). This includes soling detected defects. Add to this the capacity to handle unplanned problems, plus the production capacity of the conventional combustion engine based cars that is free for other uses after banning combustion engines, and you might notice that the capacity for conversions is there. Not necessarily to process every car within two years, but at least, it’s much larger than production capacity (and the ~40000 garages can scale much better). $\endgroup$
    – Holger
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ @njzk2: 60 millions electric motors are a ridiculously low number, compared to the actual number of electric motors produced for non-car use. Had you said “batteries”, I agreed that there are obstacles. Producing electric motors, however, never was a problem. Still, converting cars is simpler and cheaper than producing an entirely new car. It isn’t as if the converted car needed more motors and batteries than a new car. $\endgroup$
    – Holger
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 10:25

There's another cost of ditching petroleum based transport that hasn't been considered yet: Geo-political Stability.

As it stands, the world is addicted to Oil - we have a major reliance on it beyond using it for fuel - it is a major part of the Global Economy. In order to get rid of an addiction, it has to be weaned away slowly; going Cold Turkey may work in the eventually, but it causes massive short term disturbance - who knows what world we'd have when we got out the other side?

Consider this: there are large portions of the world that currently depend absolutely on Oil sales for economic stability (Graphs for percentages in This Article). If the world (or even just a significant proportion of "1st World" countries) decides to ditch non-electric cars, that's going to have a massive impact on large swathes of the Middle East and South America, two areas of the world already under significant political stress.

While there will still be a market for oil (as pointed out by rm -rf slash), a 25% hit in oil consumption would have a potentially crippling effect on the economies in those regions. This could result in significant unrest and a huge step back for safe and stable societies.

This in turn might have a knock-on effect on the availability of Oil - if the countries that supply all the oil become unstable, oil supply dries up, and now the infrastructure using the other 75% of the oil is under stress all over the world...

Eventually, the cascade may well result in your aim: there will be no infrastructure left in the world that relies on oil, purely because there is no significant, stable source of oil left. But at what cost? Would the world that got out the other side even be recognisable from its current form?


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .