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Electric Vehicle Buildout Implications





Automobile manufacturers in several nations have been developing hybrid, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. Among the hybrid vehicles, Toyota is the leader and has been mass producing the Prius for about 10 years and will soon be marketing several other Prius models, including plug-in Prius models. In this study plug-in hybrid and plug-in all-electric vehicles are designated as EV. 


Tesla Motors is marketing its all-electric Roadster model, 2-dr, 2-passenger, 53 kWh Lithium-ion battery, using a 208/240-V, 70 A (draw) outlet the charging time is about 3.5 hours by a 16.8 kW wall-mounted, in-house charger, range 244 miles, sticker price $109,000, or $101,500 after federal tax credit, or 96,500 after California tax credit.


Nissan is marketing its all-electric Leaf model, a 4-dr, 5-passenger hatchback, 24 kWh Lithium-ion battery, using a 220/240-V, 40 A outlet the charging time is about 8 hours by the 3.3 kW on-board charger, range 100 miles, sticker price $32,780, or $25,280 after federal tax credit, or $20,280 after California tax credit. 


General Motors is marketing its plug-in hybrid Volt model, a 4-dr, 5-passenger sedan, 16 kWh Lithium-ion battery, using a 220/240-V, 40 A outlet the charging time is about 4 hours by the 3.3 kW on-board charger, range 40 miles after which a 1.4 Liter, 4 cylinder gasoline engine provides power for another 340 miles, sticker price $41,000, or $33,500 after federal tax credit, or $28,500 after California tax credit.


Ford will be marketing its all-electric Focus model, a 4-dr, 5-passenger hatchback, 23 kWh Lithium-ion battery, using a 220/240-V, 40 A outlet the charging time is about 4 hours by the 6.6 kW on-board charger, range 100 miles, sticker price $33,000, or $25,500 after federal tax credit, or 20,500 after California tax credit.


Nissan prices its Leaf battery at $375-$400/kWh which appears to be lower than of the Volt and Focus. Nissan offers an 8-yr/100,000 mile warrantee, the same as the Volt; Ford has not announced a warrantee yet. 


The actual driving range usually is less than its rated value, because of the way the EV is driven, roads with hills and snow, high and low outdoor temperatures, heating, air-conditioning, battery aging, etc. At the expiration of the warrantee, the EV range is expected to have degraded by 20%-30%. 


An in-house charger, if needed, costs about $2,200 installed, or $1,100 after California tax credit. A house must have suitable electrical wiring capacity.


The EPA rating for the Nissan Leaf and the General Motors Volt is about 35 kWh/100 miles. Larger light-duty EV vehicles, using more kWh/mile, will also be needed. Medium EVs may use 50 kWh/100 miles and larger ones 65 kWh/100 miles. 


The Leaf, Volt and Focus are small passenger vehicles. Because of their short range, people living in houses in the suburbs will likely be the early adopters and use them for short commutes and trips around town; because of their extended driving range the Tesla and Volt are more useful for longer commutes and trips than the Leaf and Focus.


Estimated Payback Period


Estimated payback periods, EPPs, of hybrids and EVs, about 3% and 0.14% of the US market in 2011, respectively, were calculated by 


At $4/gal and 15,000 miles/yr, the hybrid Prius and Lincoln MKZ, and the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDI, have EPPs of about 2 years, the hybrid Ford Fusion about 8.5 years. At $5/gal, hybrid Ford Fusion has an EPP of 6.5 yrs. At $6/gal hybrids Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima have EPPs of about 4 years. 


At $4/gal, the EV Nissan Leaf has an EPP of 9 yrs, compared with the Nissan Versa; at $5/gal, the EPP is 6 yrs. 

At $4/gal, the EV Chevy Volt has an EPP of 27 yrs, compared with the Chevy Cruse.




It is useful to make some calculations to obtain “ballpark” estimates of the capital costs and CO2 reduction of a mass adoption of EVs. This study assumes 50% of the passenger vehicles are replaced with EVs.


EV Buildout


The US has about 265 million passenger vehicles which is assumed constant for this study; i.e., the scrap rate is equal to the production rate, assumed for this study at 17 million vehicles/yr.


Assuming EV production starts in 2015 at 0.5 million/yr and ramps up to 9.0 million/yr in 2030, and gas vehicle production ramps down from 17 million/yr in 2015 to 8 million/yr in 2030, and the scrap rates are the same for EVs and gas vehicles, there would a 50/50 mix by 2066, based on a spreadsheet analysis.


Note: As batteries have 8-yr/100,000 mile warrantees, it is unlikely a high percentage of EV owners will be replacing batteries in an 8-yr old EV, unless warrantee terms are extended due to battery improvements. 

Also, warrantees are prorated, i.e., a failed 6-yr-old battery is not worth much on an 8-yr warrantee.


EV Power


Assume each vehicle is driven 13,200 miles/yr, using 600 gal/yr @ 22 mpg. Gasoline has 114,000 Btu/gal. 1 kWh = 3,413 Btu. The DOE well-to-pump production factor = 0.83, i.e., it takes about 1.2 gallon of energy to have one gallon available at the pump. 


The well-to-pump source energy of the existing gasoline-powered passenger vehicles = 1.2 production factor x 265 million veh x 600 gal/yr x 114,000 Btu/gal x 1 kWh/3,413 Btu = 6,373 TWh/yr. This compares with a source energy (coal at the mine, oil and gas at the well, etc.) of about 16,000 TWh/yr to produce about 4,000 TWh/yr of electric power consumed by the US.


Source energy, such as from a coal mine, is transported to a power plant that converts it to electric power which is carried via transmission and distribution, T&D, systems, and battery chargers to the batteries of the EVs. Because of various losses along this route, it takes about 4 kWh of source energy to have 1 kWh to the EV battery.


T&D systems are designed for daytime peak power demand, plus a margin. Power demand is much lower between 10 PM and 6AM; a good time for charging EVs. Power plants and T&D systems would be more fully utilized during these hours which would improve the economics of utilities, although utilities may need to sell this power at a discount to get consumers to charge their EVs during these hours, unless their is a mandate to do so. 


If we assume the average EV uses 50 kWh/100 miles and is driven (13,200 miles)/(365 d) = 36 miles/d, then about 36/100 x 50 = 18 kWh/d needs to be replenished at a cost of about 18 kWh/d x $0.12/kWh = $2.16/d. 


For a typical car using gasoline at 22 mpg, the cost would be about 36 miles/d x 1 gal/22 miles x $4.00/gal = $6.55/d. The dollar savings would be about ($6.55-$2.16)/d x 365 d/yr = $1,602.35/yr. The fuel savings would be about 13,200 m/22 mpg = 600 gal/yr, or 6,000 gal over the 10-yr life of the car. The subsidy is about $7,500/6,000 gal = $1.25/gal.


As the price of oil rises relative to gas and coal, the annual savings will increase, but as expensive renewable power, such as from wind and solar, is added to the power mix and as expensive new generating plants to replace older coal and nuclear plants are built and as T&D system modifications are made future electricity rates will significantly increase to offset much of the annual savings; there is no free lunch.


The in-house chargers would have a timer to turn them on from 10 PM-6 AM. The chargers would have a one hour ramp-up and and a one hour ramp-down function to minimize instantaneous changes in power demand on distribution systems. This would reduce the charging period from 8 to 7 hours. Average EV charging demand is 18 kWh/7 hr = 2.57 kW at a current of 2.57 kW/220 V = 11.7 Amps.  


Power Capacity Required


EVs charging in time zones 1 (East Coast), 2, 3, 4 (West Coast) are  assumed at 50 million, 25 million, 25 million and 32 million, repectively.      


Approximate power for charging EVs: 


Time zone 1: 50 million EVs x 2.57 kW/EV = 128,500 MW

Time zone 2: 25 million EVs x 2.57 kW/EV =   64,250 MW

Time zone 3: 25 million EVs x 2.57 kW/EV =   64,250 MW 

Time zone 4: 32 million EVs x 2.57 kW/EV =   82,240 MW


Each day, EV power demand is ramping from zero, starting at 10 PM, to a maximum of 339,240 MW from 1 AM-3 AM, and ramping down to zero at 6 PM.  


Demand peaks during the daytime on the East Coast in Time zone 1.  Due to EVs charging, about 128,500 MW is added to normal nighttime demand. The grids in that time zone would need to be augmented as needed to accommodate this additional demand. An hour later the same happens in Time zone 2, etc.


There are losses of about 10% from the power plants, via the T&D systems and chargers, to the EVs, which means a capacity of about 339,240 MW/0.90 = 376,933 MW of existing coal, gas and nuclear plants is needed from 1 AM-3 PM, and fewer plants from 10 PM -1 AM and 3 AM-6 AM.


Total power produced to charge the EVs during the 10 PM-6 AM period: (132 million x 18 kWh/d)/0.90 = 2,640 million kWh/d, or 2,640 million kWh x 365 d/yr = 964 TWh/yr. 

Note: About 4 times that energy would be source energy, such as from a coal mine or gas well.


Grid Impacts


The charging of EVs will: 


– cause the US to have daytime and nighttime demand peaks in each time zone.


– require greater levels of nighttime power generation in Time zones 1, 2 and 3, and greater exchanges of power between these time zones which means additional long distance transmission systems may be needed for nighttime exchanges of power. 


– require greater levels of nighttime power generation in Time zone 4 (West Coast). Exchanges of power along the West Coast will continue to flow mostly north-south.


A typical local power distribution system serving an area with mostly houses and some businesses will have a given capacity. Adding to such an area hundreds of EVs charging from 10 PM-6 AM may overload the system, especially in summer when air conditioners, or in winter when electric heaters may be running as well. 


– Demand control measures as part of “smart grids” and power distribution system upgrading may be needed to ensure continuous electric service. 


– Utility rate schedules for EV charging that provide greatly reduced rates from 10 PM-6 AM and greatly increased rates at other times may be needed.


CO2 Reduction


The US has about 265 million passenger vehicles. Assume each vehicle is driven 13,200 miles/yr, using 600 gal/yr @ 22 mpg. CO2 produced = 265 million veh x 600 gal/yr x 20 lb of CO2/gal x 1 metric ton/2,200 lbs = 1,445 million metric tons/yr. 


Approximate CO2 reduction from 50% EVs: 1,445/2 = 722.5 million metric tons/yr. This quantity will be less with increasing mileage of gasoline-powered vehicles, because EVs would be displacing higher mileage gasoline-powered vehicles.


Total power produced to charge EVs each day: (132 million EVs x 18 kWh)/0.90 loss factor = 2,640 million kWh which, for this study, is assumed to be allocated as follows: 


Nuclear: 100,000 MW x 7 hrs x CF 0.90 = 630 million kWh; the US has 100,000 MW of nuclear plants

Coal: 180,000 MW x 7 hrs x CF 0.75 = 945 million kWh; the US has 310,000 MW of coal plants.

Gas:  203,000 MW x 7 hrs x CF 0.75 = 1,065 million kWh; the US has 440,000 MW of gas plants.


Approximate CO2 increase from the power produced to charge the EVs: {0 lbs of CO2 (nuclear) + 945 million kWh x 2.15 lb of CO2/kWh (coal) + 1065 million kWh x 1 lb of CO2/kWh (gas)} x 365 d/yr x 1 metric ton/2,200 lb = 514 million metric ton/yr.  


The net CO2 reduction increases each year until 2066 when a 50 EV/50 gas mix is achieved.

Net CO2 reduction: 722.5 – 514 = 208.5  million metric tons/yr by 2066; a big investment to achieve a tiny result after 51 years when using the existing CO2-emitting power plants. The net CO2 reduction is tiny compared with the 2008 total US CO2 emissions of about 5,840 million metric tons/yr, for a CO2 intensity of 0.96 lb of CO2/$ of GDP.


As more nuclear capacity and gas-fired, combined-cycle/gas-turbine capacity (0.67 lb of CO2/kWh) and wind and PV solar facilities are built over the next few decades, the net CO2 reduction becomes larger.




The base-load capacity for charging EVs can be supplied by greater night-time utilization of the existing T&D systems and power sources, such as coal, gas and nuclear, augmented with wind and PV Solar (described below).


Capital Cost of New Nuclear Power Plants


Because the US needs to reduce its CO2 emissions, it was decided, for this study, to use 100,000 MW of new nuclear plants to produce the power for the EVs. Wind and PV solar power, currently miniscule, would be phased in as they are built out.


The benefits of using new nuclear plants are:  


– the CO2 emission/kWh is among the lowest of all power sources.


– nuclear plants, not dependent on sun and wind, can be deployed throughout the US.


– the power is low-cost, steady, 24/7/365 and readily integrated into the existing electric grids. 


– a percentage of older base-loaded nuclear and coal plants would be replaced with the new nuclear plants.


Capital cost of nuclear plants: 100,000 MW x $7,000,000/MW = $0.70 trillion; this cost would be significantly less if factory-built standard modular reactors, SMRs, are used.


Extra Capital Cost of EVs


It took many decades for the world to achieve the mass production of today’s complex passenger vehicles. It will take decades before a similar level of mass production is achieved for EVs. Subsidies for EVs will likely be with us for a long time.


Extra capital cost and/or subsidies for EVs: $4,000/EV x 132 million veh = $0.53 trillion.


Other Capital Costs 


– facilities for a 9 million EV/yr production rate.  

– augmented energy supply infrastructure for the new nuclear plants.

– augmented T&D systems to accommodate increased electric demand.  


The rest of the world also has gasoline-powered vehicles and will have to make similar investments.


Capital Cost of Residential PV Solar Power and Battery Storage 


Residential PV solar power will be a significant power source for charging EVs. Existing residential, grid-connected PV solar systems would need to be augmented with battery storage systems and new residential systems would have battery storage as standard equipment to provide power to EVs at night.


If a household has a 6 kW, south-facing, correctly-angled, fixed-axis, grid-connected PV solar system, it will produce about 6 kW x 4.3 avg peak sun hrs/d x 365 d/yr x 0.825 avg eff = 7,564 kWh/yr, or 20.7 kWh/d in Vermont which is poorly suited for PV solar power. In the US Southwest, highly suited for solar power, the kWh/d will be significantly higher. The kWh/d varies hourly, daily and with the seasons. In this study averages are used to simplify the analysis.


Residential PV systems cost about $4,500-$5,000/kW. PV panels are warranteed for 25 years; their rated output degrades about 0.5%/yr. Battery systems cost about $80/kWh of rated capacity. The batteries last about 6 years. 


Average power use of a household is about 20 kWh/d, or 7,300 kWh/yr and of a medium-size EV about 18 kWh/d, or 6,570 kWh/yr, for a total of 13,870 kWh/yr, which means a household with a 6 kW PV solar system in Vermont purchases about 13,870-7,564 = 6,306 kWh/yr from the utility.


Household power usage starts at about dawn and continues into the later evening. On average, about 10 kWh/d of PV solar power would be used by the household during daylight hours, the rest, 10.7 kWh/d, would be stored in the batteries during daylight hours for charging an EV at night. The household would purchase power from the utility for household nighttime usage and to augment the 10.7 kWh/d to 18 kWh/d for charging an EV at night. 


The battery storage capacity would need to be about 80 kWh (extractable 50 kWh) in mostly sunny areas, such as the US Southwest, and about 160 kWh (extractable 100 kWh) in mostly cloudy areas, such as New England, to ensure adequate power for charging an EV. 


In New England, PV panels will be snow-covered at one time or another during winter, for a total of about 20 days, or more, or the weather may be cloudy for several days in a row at anytime during the year. 


Note: A battery should not be drawn down below about 25 percentage of its rated capacity. In colder climates, batteries need to be kept at about 60F for proper functioning.


The PV solar approach to charge EVs appears somewhat complicated and less applicable in cities than in suburbs and rural areas. If such an approach is adopted nationwide, new housing roofs must be correctly-angled and true-south oriented for maximum solar power collection which is not the case with the roofs of most existing houses.


The above illustrates how residential PV solar power might be used for EV charging; it is an expensive way to go, unless PV solar systems, MPPT charge controllers and battery systems become a lot less costly.


Capital Cost of Wind Power and Storage 


Wind power will become a significant power source for charging EVs, except ERCOT, the manager of the Texas grid, counts the capacity credit of wind power in Texas, a big wind state, at about 8.7% of the installed wind capacity; hardly something to rely on for next day’s commute without backup from other power sources, such as the big three: coal, gas and nuclear. 


Wind power facilities paired with pumped-storage hydro plants, as practiced by Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Hydro-Quebec and the Bonneville Power Authority appears to be lowest cost and lowest CO2 approach to integrate higher percentages of wind power into the grid. 


Absent such hydro plants, inexpensive, large-scale power storage systems (not yet invented) or transmission system overlays, as envisioned by the Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study and the ISO-NE Wind Integration Study, will be needed. See below websites for details.




The above indicates an enormous increase in power production would be required to accommodate:


– future economic growth.


– an increasing population.


– an increasing population of EVs.


Given current circumstances, it is likely the world will not make such enormous investments and global warming will continue unabated. This means people must learn to live with much more heat, a la Middle East, India, etc., and gradually move away from low-lying land near water to higher ground.


Some less costly and quicker measures to reduce CO2 are:


– high-efficiency diesel engines in passenger cars getting 40 mpg are widely used in Europe. This should be implemented in the US before PEVs; a fully mature technology, no-fingers-crossed situation and no subsidies.


– next hybrid/diesel-powered vehicles that get about 50 mpg; again a fully mature technology, no-fingers-crossed situation and no subsidies.


– next plug-in-hybrid/diesel-powered vehicles that have a 40-mile electric range; again a fully mature technology, no-fingers-crossed situation and no subsidies. The benefits are less diesel fuel consumption, but for at least the next 10-20 years more coal-generated power consumption to charge the hybrids, until renewables and natural gas become a greater percentage of US power.


– improving worldwide mpg of future gasoline-powered vehicles. This is an on-going effort that should be accelerated with subsidies. Cars with high mpgs usually are small and low-cost. If tens of millions/yr are sold worldwide, it will have a major impact on reducing CO2.


– increasing energy efficiency. See details below.


– a new annual gas-guzzler use tax on vehicles that get less than 25 mpg would get many of them to the junkyard and replaced with higher mileage vehicles or EVs; the lower the mileage, the higher the tax. The tax would be paid at the time of registration renewal.

Note: a significant increase in the federal gasoline tax was considered, but rejected, because it is too regressive.


The tax could be used to subsidize:


– EVs with battery capacity of 25 kWh, or less, to maximize CO2 reduction.


– gasoline/diesel vehicles that get 35 mpg, or greater; the higher the mileage, the greater the subsidy. The mpg should be gradually increased with time.


– implement increased energy efficiency.






France made a wise decision to go nuclear about 50 years ago. While France will be enjoying low electric rates, its competitors, such as Germany, the US, etc., will be increasing their electric rates, because they need to invest trillions of dollars over several decades to get to France’s low CO2 intensity; a major competitive advantage for France.


– France produces about 570 TWh/yr, exports about 70 TWh/yr, consumes about 447 TWh/yr, T&D losses are about 53 TW/yr. 

– France has about 79% of its power from 19 nuclear plants with 58 reactors, and about 12% hydro. Its PWR nuclear plants and hydro plants are designed to be load-following.  

– France has leading global nuclear companies, such as Areva, GDF-Suez and EDF.

– France reprocesses its “spent” fuel, and that of other nations, to make new fuel for nuclear reactors, thereby much better utilizing the uranium and greatly reducing waste. The nuclear fuel burnup is about 5% at the end of a 300-500 day refueling cycle. The other 95% is available for reprocessing. 

– France has among the lowest electric rates in Europe. 

– France has the lowest CO2 intensity, 0.37 lb of CO2/$ of GDP, of all industrialized nations.

– France built a national, 180-mph rail system that runs on nuclear power.  

– France is developing EVs to boost nighttime electric demand to better utilize its nuclear plants.

– Denmark, paragon of renewables, 0.43 lb of CO2/$ of GDP, has among the highest electric rates in Europe.




A much more economically-viable and environmentally-beneficial measure to reduce CO2 would be increased energy efficiency. A 60% reduction in Btu/$ of GDP is entirely possible with existing technologies. Such a reduction would merely place the US on par with most European nations.


It would be much wiser, and more economical, to shift subsidies away from expensive renewables, that produce just a little of expensive, variable, intermittent energy, towards increased EE. Those renewables would not be needed, if we use those funds for increased EE. 


EE  is the low-hanging fruit, has not scratched the surface, is by far the best approach, because it provides the quickest and biggest “bang for the buck”, AND it is invisible, AND it does not make noise, AND it does not destroy pristine ridge lines/upset mountain water runoffs, AND it would reduce CO2, NOx, SOx and particulates more effectively than renewables, AND it would slow electric rate increases, AND it would slow fuel cost increases, AND it would slow depletion of fuel resources, AND it would create 3 times the jobs and reduce 3-5 times the Btus and CO2 per invested dollar than renewables, AND all the technologies are fully developed, AND it would end the subsidizing of renewables tax-shelters mostly for the top 1% at the expense of the other 99%, AND it would be more democratic/equitable, AND it would do all this without public resistance and controversy.


The real issue regarding CO2 reduction is energy intensity, Btu/$ of GDP; it must be DECLINING to offset GDP and population growth. To accomplish this energy efficiency needs to be at the top of the list, followed by the most efficient renewables of which hydro power is the best and residential small wind is the worst, in fact, it is atrocious. EE is so good that it should be subsidized before any and all renewables, because it is much more effective per invested dollar. 


Effective CO2 emission reduction policy requires that all households eagerly participate. Current subsidies for electric vehicles, residential wind, PV solar and geothermal systems benefit mostly the top 5% of households that pay enough taxes to take advantage of the renewables tax credits, while all other households are required to pay for them by means of fees and taxes or higher electric rates; the net effect is much cynicism and little CO2 reduction. Improved energy efficiency policy will provide much greater opportunities to many more households to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions. 


Energy efficiency will have a much bigger role in the near future, as energy system analysts come to realize that tens of trillions of dollars will be required to reduce CO2 from all sources and that energy efficiency will reduce CO2 at a lesser cost and more effectively. Every household, every business can participate.


For example: there is a massive energy source right at our fingertips — but, so far, this resource remains largely untapped. This energy resource is available in every state, every city and every town, does not require mining and drilling and costly power plants, makes no noise, is invisible, does not harm the environment and fauna and flora and creates more jobs than renewables per invested dollar. 


The majority of our existing building stock is old and most are inefficient buildings that are destined to be in service at least 25 years or longer. Reducing the energy that is normally wasted in existing buildings offers more potential for cost-effective energy savings and CO2 emission reductions than any renewables strategy. 


Energy efficiency projects:


– will make the US more competitive, increase exports and reduce the trade balance.


– usually have simple payback periods of 6 months to 5 years. 


– reduce the need for expensive and highly visible transmission and distribution systems.


– reduce two to five times the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and create two to three times more jobs than renewables per dollar invested; no studies, research, demonstration and pilot plants will be required. 


– have minimal or no pollution, are invisible and quiet, are peaceful; no opposition groups demonstrating against them, something people really like.


– are by far the cleanest energy development anyone can engage in; they often are quick, cheap and easy.


– have a capacity factor = 1.0 and are available 24/7/365.


– use materials, such as for taping, sealing, caulking, insulation, windows, doors, refrigerators, water heaters, furnaces, fans, air conditioners, etc., that are almost entirely made in the US. They represent about 30% of a project cost, the rest is mostly labor. About 70% of the materials cost of expensive renewables, such as PV solar, is imported (panels from China, inverters from Germany), the rest of the materials cost is miscellaneous electrical items and brackets.


– will quickly reduce CO2 at the lowest cost per dollar invested AND make the economy more efficient in many areas which will raise living standards, or prevent them from falling further. 


– if done before renewables, will reduce the future capacities and capital costs of renewables. 















Willem Post's picture

Thank Willem for the Post!

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Sam Carana's picture
Sam Carana on Mar 17, 2011

Hi Willem,

I support the idea to have taxes on polluting items and to support clean alternatives. In my view, the best approach is feebates, i.e. fees with their revenues used to support rebates on clean local alternatives.


karrie karrie's picture
karrie karrie on Dec 14, 2011

That’s quite a review, I’ve never seen anything like it since we’re talking about the electric cars. Now I really have a better idea on what to expect from the electric cars and their manufacturers. After reading all this information I realized that there is still room for improvement, the price of these cars is slightly above the average but they are not the easiest cars to handle. Until I can afford one of these I’ll just focus on what I can find on, that’s the kind of market I fit in at the moment.

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