The Electric Vehicle Scenario: Does It Get Us into the Right Lane and Can We Afford It?



The Electric Vehicle Scenario: Does It Get Us into the Right Lane and Can We Afford It?

Authors

Barry Zondag, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Hans Nijland, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Danielle Snellen, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

Description

In order to reach their climate ambitions and to reduce their oil-dependency, both the European Commission and the Dutch government aim for a substantial cut in transport CO2 emissions by 2050 (EC minus 60% compared to 1990 levels). The ‘Getting-into-the-right-lane’ study (PBL, 2009) shows that Alternative Fuel Vehicles, such as electric vehicles, are essential to reach that goal and that passenger car transport and urban freight distribution have the highest potential for emission reduction. This paper takes a rather bold approach and explores the long term impacts of a ‘what if’ scenario assuming that in 2050 all passenger cars and urban freight transport is fully electric. The study presents findings on a wide set of impacts including transport, spatial, financial and environmental impacts. As far as possible we have quantified these impacts to get an impression of their magnitude. The paper concludes that the 100% electric vehicle scenario is successful in terms of CO2 reduction but that this success comes at a high price. The study shows that substantial costs are involved, both in the form of much lower tax incomes for the government as well as higher costs for the car drivers. A sensitivity for the main uncertainties, such as speed of technological development and the developments in fuel prices, shows that the costs will only be comparable to the conventional car system under conditions of extreme oil price increases or in the case of a very strong acceleration of the technological developments.

Abstract

In order to reach their climate ambitions and to reduce their oil-dependency, both the European Commission and the Dutch government aim for a substantial cut in transport CO2 emissions by 2050 (EC minus 60% compared to 1990 levels). The EC also states the ambition that by 2030 traffic in inner cities should be carbon-free. The Commission stresses that the decarbonisation of the transport sector depends, firstly, on technology development towards clean and efficient vehicles based on conventional internal combustion engines and, secondly, on the deployment of breakthrough technologies in ultra-low-carbon vehicles. As alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) the electric vehicles (EVs) are widely seen as a promising breakthrough technology for decarbonising transport. The ‘Getting-into-the-right-lane’ study (PBL, 2009) also shows that AFV’s are essential to reach that goal and that passenger car transport and urban freight distribution have the highest potential for emission reduction.
In the literature there is wide range of studies addressing partial elements of such transition, for example focusing on changes in the vehicle fleet and CO2 emissions. This paper takes a rather bold approach exploring the long term impacts of a ‘what if’ scenario assuming that in 2050 all passenger cars and urban freight transport is fully electric. The study presents findings on a wide set of impacts including transport, spatial, financial and environmental impacts. As far as possible we have quantified these impacts to get an impression of their magnitude.
Regarding the passenger transport impacts the focus is on car ownership and vehicle miles travelled and the implications for infrastructure network usage and congestion. The Dynamo car ownership model and the National Model System have been applied to explore the impacts of a changes in fixed and variable costs on car ownership and vehicle usage. A base year matrix for road freight transport by commodity type and vehicle type has been used to explore the potential effects of electric urban distribution. This scenario assumes that only light-duty trucks can operate within urban boundaries. The exploration of the impacts include - by truck type - the number of trips, vehicle kilometers, ton kilometers and transport costs.
The spatial impacts include among others the effects on the number of required parking spaces, the changes in restrictions on land use from environmental regulations and usage and location of urban distribution centers. As financial impacts we have calculated the changes in fixed and variable costs for car users and urban freight transport as well as transport related revenues for the government. The environmental impacts considered are CO2, local air and noise emissions.
The paper concludes that the 100% electric vehicle scenario is successful in terms of CO2 reduction but that this success comes at a high price. The fully electric passenger and urban freight vehicles contribute substantially to the transport CO2 emission targets (around 50%) and to the urban environmental quality (noise, local air pollution). However the study also finds that substantial costs are involved, both in the form of much lower tax incomes for the government as well as higher costs for the car drivers. Further the costs are also distributed unequally between people driving many miles and people with low mileage. The higher fixed costs result in lower car ownership rates and therefore different accessibility profiles of households.
The paper recognizes that such bold analysis relies on many debatable assumptions. Therefore we have tested the sensitivity of these findings for the main uncertainties, such as speed of technological development and the developments in fuel prices. This analysis shows that the costs of an electric future will only be comparable to the conventional car system under conditions of extreme oil price increases or in the case of a very strong acceleration of the technological developments.

Publisher

Association for European Transport