Electric cars could dominate U.S. roads in 2030

A battery-powered Tesla Roadster car is displayed during the second media day of the 79th Geneva Car Show at the Palexpo in Geneva in this March 4, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Electric car sales could jump to 86 percent of U.S. light vehicle sales in 2030 if consumers don’t have to buy batteries themselves, according to a University of California, Berkeley study to be released on Monday.

A company called Better Place and emerging rivals plan to offer pay-per-mile plans, similar to cell phone minutes. A family would buy a car but Better Place would own the battery, offer charging stations, and swap out batteries as needed to extend the driving range.

The cost of building charging systems will be more than $320 billion over the next couple of decades, although health-related savings due to less vehicle pollution could be $210 billion, according to the study by economist Thomas Becker.

The main benefit to drivers would be cars with price tags and operating costs similar to or less than gasoline models.

Renault-Nissan is making cars for the Better Place project. Better Place has said its system would be cheaper than using gasoline. The Berkeley analysis predicted the per-mile cost of making and charging batteries, including the cost of building a charging system, would be similar to or sharply less than a gasoline car, depending largely on whether prices of petrol rise.

Reporting by Peter Henderson, Editing by Richard Chang