Tesla 'EVs Will Double Electrical Demand' – Impact on Uranium?

December 4 2020, 11:46 GMT

Elon Musk says EVs will double electrical demand – what does this mean for uranium? Will nuclear power be part of the solution? Brandon Munro discusses how things have changed since he spoke at the World Nuclear Association in 2018. 

It astonishes me how many people – including those who can afford the premium for an electric vehicle - seem unaware that electrified transport is only as clean as the electricity that powers it.  Nuclear energy has an important role to play in ensuring this rapidly growing sector is as emissions-free as consumers presume it to be. 

Electricity demand to double

Last Tuesday, the umbilical link between electric vehicle uptake and the growth of electricity demand was dangled in front of the woke consciousness of the EV movement.  Elon Musk, the EV world’s most influential voice, projected that global electricity demand would double over the next two decades as EV adoption became the norm.  

Of note – particularly for Elon’s German audience – was his commentary that nuclear power would be part of the solution.  

The extensive media coverage of Musk’s viewpoint follows Boris Johnson’s 17 November announcement that the UK’s ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK would be brought forward from 2040 to 2030.  Only a couple of years ago the UK’s announcement that sales of new ICE vehicles would be banned in 2040 seemed dramatic.  This latest policy shift demonstrates just how rapidly this space is changing, as a growing number of countries have pledged net zero targets and a range of scientific reports demonstrate that these goals can’t be met without significant societal change.  

Net-zero targets (UK, US, China)

In the context of this fluid sentiment and policy environment, nuclear energy has been paired with net zero targets in the US (2050), UK (2050) and China (2060).  And, as of Tuesday, we can add the parallel universe of Musk to this list.

The UK shift comes with the role out of one of the most ambitious and potentially effective climate change approaches in the developed world.  Johnson revealed what he referred to as a “green industrial revolution” which involves a 10 point plan covering clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies. 

Nuclear and electric vehicles rank #3 and #4 in the list of priorities Johnson is hoping to tackle by using the UK’s industrial and intellectual strengths.  The British green revolution is expected to deliver 250,000 jobs into the COVID-ravaged economy, including 10,000 nuclear energy jobs. In terms of promoting EV adoption, Johnson pledged  £520 million towards helping consumers move away from CO2 emitting cars. More importantly for the nuclear sector is the investment of £1.3 billion into charging network infrastructure

The nuclear industry has a key role to play

Since June 2017, I have been encouraging industry colleagues at the World Nuclear Association to look over the horizon at electric vehicles and how the EV revolution will challenge the nuclear industry to play a bigger role. As a result, I was invited to give a plenary speech at WNA’s annual symposium in 2018

I explained such concepts as “range anxiety” (it was all the way back in 2018, after all) and noted that the evolution of charging infrastructure would influence how much of a role nuclear can play.  Those comments remain relevant, as Johnson’s £1.3 billion pledge to install more EV charging points offers real opportunities for nuclear energy to ensure the infrastructure roll out can be implemented to enhance grid stability and avoid charging demand disrupting simultaneous grid uses. 

Consumer preferences leading the way

I believe that with the reduction of EV subsidies in many markets, the next phase of EV adoption will be led by consumer preferences.  In the same way that nuclear energy is being paired at a national level with net-zero targets, there is a unique opportunity to pair consumers’ perceptions of nuclear energy with the tangible emotional benefits they derive through the adoption of electric vehicles.

I encourage you to watch the full presentation.  As I looked back after more than two years, I felt that most of the content is still relevant to both nuclear advocates and uranium investors.  I ventured to give projections on what the EV revolution would mean for nuclear power (ie uranium) demand to 2030 – which can now be considered against the 2040 projection put forward by the most followed EV thought leader of our time.

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