How Much Land is Needed to Power the U.S. with Solar?
The Biden administration has set a goal of reaching 100% clean electricity throughout the U.S. by 2035, and solar power is a key for this American energy transition.
In the last decade alone, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 42% in the U.S. thanks to federal tax credits, declining costs, and increasing demand. It is projected that more than one in seven American homes will have a solar power system by 2030.
To put this trend into perspective, this graphic uses data from the United States Department of Energy to see how much land would be needed to power the entire country with solar panels.
Solar Panels Across the Ocean State
The U.S. has 102.9 gigawatts of total solar installed capacity which is equivalent to 965 square miles, roughly the size of the country’s smallest state, Rhode Island. This current solar capacity generates enough electricity to power 18.6 million American homes, which is nearly 13% of the nation’s households.
According to a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, roughly 22,000 square miles of solar panel-filled land (about the size of Lake Michigan) would be required to power the entire country, including all 141 million households and businesses, based on 13-14% efficiency for solar modules.
Many solar panels, however, reach 20% efficiency, which could reduce the necessary area to just about 10,000 square miles, equivalent to the size of Lake Erie.
Solar Installations Spreading Across the States
Today, solar represents only 3% of the total U.S. electrical generation.
While California has traditionally dominated the market, other states like Florida and Texas are expanding rapidly, boosted by the residential market.
Large companies with clean energy goals such as Walmart, Apple, Target and Amazon have also helped push solar adoption to near-record levels in 2021.
Despite having a high installation cost, the technology tends to bring savings in the long term. An average-sized residential system has dropped from a price of $40,000 in 2010 to roughly $20,000 in 2020. Along with this, solar panels can save between $10,000-$30,000 over a 30-year lifetime.
Between land and rooftops, the United States has more than enough space to build all the solar panels necessary to power the country. Until then, the future of clean electricity will also depend on hydro, nuclear, geothermal, and wind energy.
Every Electric Semi Truck in One Graphic
A wave of electric semi trucks is expected to arrive over the next few years. View this infographic to learn more.
Every Electric Semi Truck in One Graphic
Electric semi trucks are coming, and they could help to decarbonize the shipping and logistics industry. However, range remains a major limitation.
This presents challenges for long-hauling, where the average diesel-powered semi can travel up to 2,000 miles before refueling. Compare this to the longest range electric model, the Tesla Semi, which promises up to 500 miles. A key word here is “promises”—the Semi is still in development, and nothing has been proven yet.
In this infographic, we’ve listed all of the upcoming electric semi trucks, complete with range and charge time estimates. Further in the article, we’ll explore the potential commercial use cases of this first generation of trucks.
The following table includes all of the models included in the above infographic.
|Company||Truck Name||Range||Charge Time||Expected Delivery|
|🇺🇸 Tesla||Semi||300-500 miles||TBD||2023|
|🇺🇸 Freightliner||eCascadia||250 miles||80% in as low as 1.5 hrs||2022|
|🇸🇪 Volvo||VNR Electric||275 miles||80% in as low as 1 hr||2022|
|🇺🇸 Kenworth||T680E||150 miles||100% in as low as 3.3 hrs||TBD|
|🇺🇸 Peterbilt||579EV||150 miles||100% in as low as 3.3 hrs||2022|
|🇨🇳 BYD||8TT||167 miles||100% in as low as 2.5 hrs||In operation|
|🇺🇸 Nikola||Tre BEV||350 miles||10% to 80% in as low as 2 hrs||2022|
Source: US News, CNBC, InsideEVs
With the exception of Tesla’s Semi, all of these trucks are currently in operation or expected to begin delivering this year. You may want to take this with a grain of salt, as the electric vehicle industry has become notorious for delays.
In terms of range, Tesla and Nikola are promising the highest figures (300+ miles), while the rest of the competition is targeting between 150 to 275 miles. It’s reasonable to assume that the Tesla and Nikola semis will be the most expensive.
Charge times are difficult to compare because of the variables involved. This includes the amount of charge and the type of charger used. Nikola, for example, claims it will take 2 hours to charge its Tre BEV from 10% to 80% when using a 240kW charger.
Charger technology is also improving quickly. Tesla is believed to be rolling out a 1 MW (1,000 kW) charger that could add 400 miles of range in just 30 minutes.
Use Cases of Electric Semi Trucks
Given their relatively lower ranges, electric semis are unlikely to be used for long hauls.
Instead, they’re expected to be deployed on regional and urban routes, where the total distance traveled between destinations is much lower. There are many reasons why electric semis are suited for these routes, as listed below:
- Smaller batteries can be installed, which keeps the cost of the truck lower
- Urban routes provide greater opportunities to use regenerative braking
- Quieter and cleaner operation in densely populated areas
An example of a regional route would be delivering containers from the Port of Los Angeles to the Los Angeles Transportation Center Intermodal Facility (LATC). The LATC is where containers are loaded onto trains, and is located roughly 28 miles away.
With a round trip totaling nearly 60 miles, an electric semi with a range of 200 miles could feasibly complete this route three times before needing a charge. The truck could be charged overnight, as well as during off hours in the middle of the day.
Hydrogen for Long Hauls?
We’ve covered the differences between battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the past, but this was from a passenger car perspective. The conclusion, in that case, was that battery electric has become the dominant technology. In terms of long-haul trucking, however, hydrogen may have an edge.
If we look at what will become mainstream, probably for smaller mobility it will be EVs, and fuel cells for larger mobility. That is the conclusion so far.
-Toshihiro Mibe, CEO, Honda
There are several reasons for why hydrogen could be beneficial for delivering heavy cargo over long distances. These are listed below:
- Refueling a hydrogen fuel cell takes less time than recharging a battery. Note, however, that charge times are still improving.
- A fuel cell configuration is typically lighter than an equivalent battery pack. Less drivetrain weight translates to a higher cargo capacity.
- Hydrogen-powered trucks could achieve a much higher range.
This last point hasn’t been proven yet, but we can reference Nikola, which is developing hydrogen-powered semi trucks. The company has two models in the works, which are the Tre FCEV with a range of 500 miles, and the Two FCEV with a range of 900 miles.
Keep in mind that these numbers are once again estimates and that Nikola has been accused of fraud in the past.
Who’s Using Electric Semi Trucks Today?
Although there are very few models available, electric semi trucks are indeed being used today.
In January 2020, Anheuser-Busch announced that it had received its 100th 8TT. The 8TT is produced by China’s BYD Motors and was one of the first electric semis to see real-world application. The brewing company uses its 8TTs to deliver products to retail destinations across California (e.g. grocery stores).
Another U.S. company using electric semis is Walmart. The retailer is trialing both the eCascadia from Freightliner and the Tre BEV from Nikola. The trucks are being used to pick up cargo from suppliers and then deliver it to regional consolidation centers.
Visualizing 10 Years of Global EV Sales by Country
This infographic charts the exponential growth of EV sales by country over the last decade.
10 Years of EV Sales by Country
In 2011, around 55,000 electric vehicles (EVs) were sold around the world. 10 years later in 2021, that figure had grown close to 7 million vehicles.
With many countries getting plugged into electrification, the global EV market has seen exponential growth over the last decade. Using data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), this infographic shows the explosion in global EV sales since 2011, highlighting the countries that have grown into the biggest EV markets.
The Early EV Days
From 2011 to 2015, global EV sales grew at an average annual rate of 89%, with roughly one-third of global sales occurring in the U.S. alone.
|Year||Total EV Sales||CAGR|
|Total sales / Avg growth||1,448,162||89.3%|
In 2014, the U.S. was the largest EV market followed by China, the Netherlands, Norway, and France. But things changed in 2015, when China’s EV sales grew by 238% relative to 2014, propelling it to the top spot.
China’s growth had been years in the making, with the government offering generous subsidies for electrified cars, in addition to incentives and policies that encouraged production. In 2016, Chinese consumers bought more EVs than the rest of the world combined—and the country hasn’t looked back, accounting for over half of global sales in 2021.
EV Sales by Country in 2021
After remaining fairly flat in 2019, global EV sales grew by 38% in 2020, and then more than doubled in 2021. China was the driver of the growth—the country sold more EVs in 2021 than the rest of the world combined in 2020.
|Country||2021 EV Sales||% of Total|
|South Korea 🇰🇷||119,402||1.8%|
|Rest of Europe 🇪🇺||469,930||6.9%|
|Rest of the World 🌍||313,129||4.6%|
China has nearly 300 EV models available for purchase, more than any other country, and it’s also home to four of the world’s 10 largest battery manufacturers. Moreover, the median price of electric cars in China is just 10% more than conventional cars, compared to 45-50% on average in other major markets.
Germany, Europe’s biggest auto market, sold nearly 700,000 EVs in 2021, up 72% from 2020. The country hosts some of the biggest EV factories in Europe, with Tesla, Volkswagen, and Chinese battery giant CATL either planning or operating ‘gigafactories’ there. Overall, sales in Europe increased by 65% in 2021, as evidenced by the seven European countries in the above list.
The U.S. also made a comeback after a two-year drop, with EV sales more than doubling in 2021. The growth was supported by a 24% increase in EV model availability, and also by an increase in production of Tesla models, which accounted for half of U.S. EV sales.
Tesla’s Dominance in the U.S.
Tesla is the world’s most renowned electric car company and its dominance in the U.S. is unmatched.
Between 2011 and 2019, Tesla accounted for 40% of all EVs sold in the United States. Furthermore, Tesla cars have been the top-selling EV models in the U.S. in every year since 2015.
|EV Model||2021 Sales||% of 2021 U.S. EV Sales|
|Tesla Model Y*||185,994||29.5%|
|Tesla Model 3*||147,460||23.4%|
|Ford Mustang Mach-E||27,140||4.3%|
|Chevy Bolt EV/EUV||24,828||3.9%|
|Tesla Model S*||15,545||2.5%|
|Tesla Model X*||7,985||1.3%|
Share of total sales calculated using total U.S. EV sales of 631,152 units, based on data from the IEA.
Tesla accounted for over 50% of EV sales in the U.S. in 2021 with the Model Y—launched in 2019—taking the top spot. Furthermore, the Model Y remained the bestselling EV in the first quarter of 2022, with Tesla taking up a massive 75% of the EV market share.
Despite Tesla’s popularity, it could face a challenge as other automakers roll out new models and expand EV production. For example, General Motors aims to make 20 EV models available by 2025, and Ford expects to produce at least 2 million EVs annually by 2026. This increase in competition from incumbents and new entrants could eat away at Tesla’s market share in the coming years.
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