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Electricity

Electricity is produced from energy sources such as wind and solar energy, hydropower, nuclear energy, stored hydrogen, oil, coal, natural gas. It is defined as an alternative fuel by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (DOE, 2019). For additional background, see the Alternative Fuels Data Center's Electricity Basics webpage.

On this page, explore the fuel price and emissions intensity of electricity.

Emissions estimates use the Argonne National Laboratory's GREET model (Wang et al., 2022). The underlying source for a value in the table can be seen by placing your mouse cursor over that value. The data sources are also cited—with hyperlinked linked references—in the Key Assumptions section below.

 

Key Assumptions

The data and estimates presented here are based on the following key assumptions:

  • Fuel Price: The fuel price (e.g., Lowest Cost, Lowest Emissions) is associated with a single year. Because we do not provide a time-series trajectory, here we show fuel price at a frozen level for all years so we can offer a range of fuel price values. In the levelized cost of driving and emissions charts, this approach clearly distinguishes effects of fuels from those of vehicle technologies, because fuels remain constant while vehicle technologies change over time.
  • Fuel Price Composition: The fuel price for electricity is intended to reflect the retail price to the consumer, less taxes, and includes the wholesale production cost and the cost of infrastructure for electricity delivery and vehicle charging. We do not include taxes on electricity for transportation use, because electricity for transportation use is not currently taxed. 
  • Charging and Grid Mix Scenarios: Multiple charging and grid mix scenarios are provided, which are meant to encompass the potential variability of charging types, electricity prices, and emissions.

In the light-duty plug-in electric vehicle (LD PEV) charging scenarios:

  • The electricity price represents an estimate of the average price paid by a current LD PEV user. 
  • This price is a weighted average of different electricity prices. We assume 81% of LD PEV charging happens at home (Borlaug et al., 2020) and is paid at the average residential electricity rate. Moreover, electric vehicles are often charged at favorable time-of-use rates, if available, that provide discounted electricity during certain hours of the day (usually at night) and align well with electric vehicle charging needs (Kaluza et al., 2016). We assume 50% of home charging takes advantage of time-of-use rates and that these provide a 75% price saving, based on (Borlaug et al., 2020). We assume the remaining 19% of charging happens at public stations, for which costs and business models are variable. We assume 14% of charging is at workplaces or community chargers and is paid at a rate based on commercial electricity prices, and 5% of PEV charging is en route and is paid at the current DC fast charge price, which is estimated to be $0.27/kilowatt-hour (Borlaug et al., 2020). The table below summarizes the assumptions and costs used in the LD PEV charging, national grid mix scenario.

Charging Cost and Scenario Assumptions for LD PEV Charging

Charging LocationDetailsElectricity Price (cents/kWh)Share
Home (L1 & L2)Residential rate12.940.5%
Time-of-use rate (75% of residential rate)9.740.5%
Workplace/community (L2)Workplace/community LCOC,
based on Commercial Rate
14.914.0%
En route (DCFC)DC fast charge (50–150 kW)275.0%
  • The additional LD PEV charging high-cost case is included to explore the sensitivity of LD levelized cost of driving to electricity price. The high-cost case represents a scenario with no time-of use rates. The price is calculated using the home, workplace, and public charging shares above (with no time-of-use rates).
  • The additional LD DC fast charging scenario is based on the estimated price of DC fast charging of $0.27/kilowatt-hour under high cost assumptions (Borlaug et al., 2020). The higher cost assumptions are used as an upper bound on electricity prices.
  • In the LD PEV levelized cost of driving (LCOD) calculation:
    • We include residential charger equipment and installation costs.
    • We assume plug-in hybrid electric vehicles use 50% Level 1 and 50% Level 2 residential chargers, and battery electric vehicles use 16% Level 1 and 84% Level 2 residential chargers (Borlaug et al., 2020).
    • We assume charger costs for Level 1 at $0 and Level 2 costs at $1,836 (Borlaug et al., 2020). These costs are included in addition to the vehicle capital cost in the LCOD calculation.
    • We assume the technology will last the life of the vehicle.
    • We note that if charging equipment is already available, a consumer would not need to incur this cost to purchase a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or battery electric vehicle.

In the medium-and-heavy-duty plug-in electric vehicle (MHD PEV) charging scenarios:

  • The electricity price represents an estimate of the break-even cost of charging paid by commercial operators and drivers in low and high charging cost scenarios. These charging scenarios incorporate cost estimates of infrastructure and demand charges, as well as variation on utilization, based on (Bennett et al., 2022)
  • We represent both MHD PEV charging costs as ranges, due to the large variability and uncertainty in the costs and utilization of alternative fueling infrastructure. The resulting range for LCOD reflects a range of applications and assumptions, summarized in the table below:

Charging Cost and Scenario Assumptions for MDHD PEV Charging

LCOD CaseCharging Location TypeUtilizationInstallation CostEquipment/ Infrastructure Cost Adder ($/kWh on top of cost of electricity)Electric Rate Structure, Demand Charge, and Energy Portion of Cost of Electricity
High
(Baseline Current and Future)
Travel center or en route (150 kW–3 MW)LowHigh$0.17/kWhHigh-demand-charge rate structure, with demand charges equivalent to $0.10/kWh (energy portion of $0.03/kWh; cost of electricity: $0.13/kWh)
Low
(Baseline Current)
Depot
(50 kW)
HighLow$0.08/kWhLow-demand-charge rate structure, with demand charges equivalent to $0.03/kWh (energy portion of $0.065/kWh; cost of electricity: $0.095/kWh)
Low
(Future)
Depot
(50 kW)
High, adjusted to include managed charging and/or queuingLow, and avoided local distribution grid upgrade cost$0.045/kWh, reflecting increased utilization and avoided costsCost of electricity at $0.075/kWh, reflecting negligible or avoided demand charge in a situation with power draw at existing facilities would absorb peak demand charges, managed charging, queuing, and/or access and ability to use EV-friendly/energy-only utility rate structures.
  • Source: (Bennett et al., 2022) Estimating the Breakeven Cost of Delivered Electricity To Charge Class 8 Electric Tractors. Modeling using EVI-FAST, spanning DHL-r1 to ELL-MW-r2 cases. Equipment and infrastructure costs include on-site charging equipment and associated financing, installation, maintenance, operation, and local distribution grid upgrade costs. Differences in cases reflect assumptions about charging location, charge power, utilization, and projected costs.
  • The above cost range has been generalized to represent the cost of charging any MHD PEV, but the specific cost of charging a particular MHD PEV can vary greatly depending on the different charging needs and strategies for different MDHD vehicles. While some pickup trucks and vans may charge in ways and cost similar to light-duty vehicles in terms of power level and dwell locations and dwell periods, other trucks may charge at higher power levels, at different frequencies and durations, and/or rely on dedicated chargers with low utilization. 
  • Low (Future) is an adapted version of the DHL-r1 case with adjusted assumptions. These adjustments include higher utilization, lower or avoided electric demand charges, and avoided local distribution grid upgrade costs. These adjustments are intended to reflect charging at depots or facilities with operational flexibility allowing queuing, deferral, and/or managed charging, charging at sites with existing industrial power draw and infrastructure, and/or EV-friendly or energy-only utility rate structures.

In the varied grid mix scenarios:

  • For current grid mix scenarios (National, Indiana [IN], and California [CA]) residential and commercial electricity prices are estimated from 2020 average electricity retail price data from EIA (EIA, 2022). The grid mixes for the national and Indiana and California grid mix scenarios are based on 2020 state-level electricity generation from EIA (EIA, 2022).
  • The Future National Grid Mix and Future Low Renewable Energy Penetration scenarios are based on 2050 values in the Annual Energy Outlook 2021 for the Reference and High Renewable Cost cases respectively (EIA, 2021). The Future High Renewable Energy Penetration scenario is estimated from the 2050 results of the Low Renewable Energy Cost scenario in the 2021 NREL Standard Scenarios analysis (Cole et al., 2021), with use of rates from (EIA, 2018) for consistency. The Standard Scenario analysis only provides wholesale electricity prices; therefore, we apply the percent change in wholesale prices for 2020–2050 to the 2020 residential and commercial rates from the Annual Energy Outlook 2021 Reference case to estimate electricity prices for the Future High Renewable Energy Penetration scenario.
  • The emissions intensities are estimated using the GREET model (Wang et al., 2022) and are based on grid mixes corresponding to each scenario described above. The table below shows the generation penetration by technology for each grid mix scenario.

Electricity Mix by Technology for Alternative Grid Mix Scenario

Generation TypeNationalCAINFuture NationalFuture High Renewable Energy PenetrationFuture Low Renewable Energy Penetration
Coal19%0%53%12%2%13%
Natural gas41%49%38%34%18%43%
Nuclear20%8%0%12%13%13%
Renewable sources20%43%9%42%67%31%

For electricity losses associated with vehicle charging

  • In calculating levelized cost of driving, losses should be considered in situations where a driver or fleet operator owns the charging equipment (e.g., residential home charging or fleet depot charging), as the owner incurs the increased electricity cost associated with losses. 
  • The table below describes how losses are applied in the levelized cost of driving calculation in the ATB for each vehicle class and electricity pathway.  For emissions, estimates for all electricity pathways and vehicle classes include losses according to the values below. 

Treatment of Charging Losses by Vehicle Class and Fuel Pathway 

Vehicle ClassFuel PathwayTreatment of Charging Losses
Light-dutyAll PEV charging pathways

PEV charging for light-duty vehicles is a mix of residential, workplace/community, and DCFC charging. The associated electricity costs in the levelized cost of driving calculation have varying estimates of charging losses due to differences in charging infrastructure ownership and charging power levels.

Residential Charging: We estimate charging losses to be 15% in 2020, which decreases exponentially to 12% in 2050, based on estimates reported from Elgowainy et al. (Elgowainy et al., 2016). These losses are applied to the costs and emissions of residential electricity.

Workplace/Community Charging: Losses are applied because in the ATB, workplace/community charging rates are based on EIA (EIA, 2022) Annual Energy Outlook commercial electricity rates, which reflect costs at the wall outlet. The amount of charging losses are assumed to be the same as residential charging.

DCFC: We do not apply losses to DCFC electricity costs, as they reflect costs for delivered electricity paid by consumers at DCFC stations (Borlaug et al., 2020). For emissions, losses are assumed to be 15%.

DCFCWe do not apply losses to DCFC electricity costs, as they reflect costs for delivered electricity paid by consumers at DCFC stations (Borlaug et al., 2020). For emissions, losses are assumed to be 15%.
Medium- and heavy-dutyLow LCOD case pathwaysThe Low LCOD case assumes depot charging. Charging losses of 15% (transformer and charging equipment) are included in charging cost estimates (Bennett et al., 2022) and are also applied to emissions estimates.
High LCOD case pathwaysThe High LCOD case assumes travel center or en route charging. Charging losses of 15% (transformer and charging equipment losses) are included in the break-even charging cost estimates from Bennett et al. (Bennett et al., 2022) and are used to inform the cost cases here. Losses of 15% are applied to emissions estimates.
  • The electricity price is converted to dollars per gasoline gallon equivalent from dollars per kilowatt-hour, assuming 1 gge = 33.7 kilowatt-hours (EPA, 2011).

The data downloads include additional details of assumptions and calculations for each metric.

Definitions

For detailed definitions, see:

CO2e

NOx

SOx

PM

Electricity

Fuel price

Natural gas

Scenarios

Well-to-tank emissions

References

The following references are specific to this page; for all references in this ATB, see References.

DOE. “Alternative Fuels Data Center,” 2019. https://afdc.energy.gov/.

Wang, Michael, Amgad Elgowainy, Uisung Lee, Kwang Hoon Baek, Adarsh Bafana, Pahola Thathiana Benavides, Andrew Burnham, et al. “Summary of Expansions and Updates in GREET® 2022.” Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States), October 1, 2022. https://doi.org/10.2172/1891644.

Borlaug, Brennan, Shawn Salisbury, Mindy Gerdes, and Matteo Muratori. “Levelized Cost of Charging Electric Vehicles in the United States.” Joule 4, no. 7 (July 15, 2020): 1470–85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joule.2020.05.013.

Kaluza, Sebastian, David Almeida, and Paige Mullen. “BMW i ChargeForward: PG&E’s Electric Vehicle Smart Charging Pilot.” A cooperation between BMW Group and Pacific Gas and Electricty Company, 2016. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiHvd_M5MeCAxVonWoFHYyXBUkQFnoECBoQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fefiling.energy.ca.gov%2FGetDocument.aspx%3Ftn%3D221489&usg=AOvVaw18Zvc3tE8HCM_gTJeRusUA&opi=89978449.

Bennett, Jesse, Partha Mishra, Eric Miller, Brennan Borlaug, Andrew Meintz, and Alicia Birky. “Estimating the Breakeven Cost of Delivered Electricity to Charge Class 8 Electric Tractors.” National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States), October 19, 2022. https://doi.org/10.2172/1894645.

EIA. “Electricity Data Browser,” 2022. https://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/browser/.

EIA. “Annual Energy Outlook 2021.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Energy Information Administration, February 2021. https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/.

Cole, Wesley, J. Vincent Carag, Maxwell Brown, Patrick Brown, Stuart Cohen, Kelly Eurek, Will Frazier, et al. “2021 Standard Scenarios Report: A U.S. Electricity Sector Outlook.” National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States), November 29, 2021. https://doi.org/10.2172/1834042.

EIA. “Annual Energy Outlook 2018.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2018. https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/.

Elgowainy, Amgad, Jeongwoo Han, Jacob Ward, Fred Joseck, David Gohlke, Alicia Lindauer, Todd Ramsden, et al. “Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Analysis of U.S. Light-Duty Vehicle-Fuel Pathways: A Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment of Current (2015) and Future (2025–2030) Technologies,” September 1, 2016. https://doi.org/10.2172/1324467.

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