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EPRI-NRDC report finds widespread vehicle electrification and a cleaner grid could lead to substantial cuts in GHG by 2050

Widespread adoption of electric transportation, including electrification in the off-road sector, could lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and could modestly improve air quality, according to a new analysis released by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report, “Environmental Assessment of a Full Electric Transportation Portfolio”, is based on a projection that by 2050 electricity replaces traditional fuels for approximately half of light- and medium-duty transportation and a significant portion of non-road equipment. This study builds on the 2007 Environmental Assessment of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles by EPRI and NRDC (earlier post), which showed that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could contribute to reductions in national greenhouse gas emissions, while also leading to improved air quality. As with the earlier assessment, this study consists of two separate, but related, analyses: greenhouse gas emissions from 2015-2050, and air quality impacts in 2030.

The report finds that greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty vehicles could drop as much as 64% below today’s levels. Widespread use of electric vehicles (EVs)—including lawn and garden equipment and heavy industrial equipment such as forklifts—could improve air quality, particularly in densely populated urban areas.

Use of electric vehicles would achieve greater reductions in GHG emissions, corresponding to the rate that the electric grid becomes cleaner, through greater reliance on renewables and low- and non-emitting generation.

This research points to the importance of two fundamental and parallel trends in energy and the environment. First is the continuing decarbonization of the electricity sector and second is the electrification of energy use in transportation and industry. We expect to see continued interest and work in measuring and understanding these trends more fully in the years and decades ahead.

—Mike Howard, EPRI president and CEO

The study analyzes two potential scenarios of the future electric sector, the “Base GHG” and “Lower GHG” scenarios. Both project grid emissions decreasing over time, in part because of existing and potential regulations and plausible economic conditions. In the Lower GHG Scenario, further reductions in carbon emissions result from adoption of policies that apply an increasing price on carbon emissions, resulting in faster deployment of low-emission generation technologies.

  • In the Base GHG scenario, the study estimates that, by 2050, the electricity sector could reduce annual GHG emissions by 1030 million metric tons relative to 2015 levels, a 45% reduction.

  • In the Lower GHG scenario, the study estimates that, by 2050, the electricity sector could reduce annual GHG emissions by 1700 million metric tons relative to 2015 levels, a 77% reduction.

The analysis modeled electric sector and transportation sector emissions with and without widespread vehicle electrification to determine the effect of electrification of light-duty vehicles, medium-duty vehicles and certain non-road equipment. For wide-spread adoption, the analysis assumes that the electric vehicle market share grows from approximately 1% today to a substantial share of total sales, such that by 2050 electricity is powering 53% of personal vehicle miles traveled.

As transportation is electrified, a comprehensive grid model uses the incremental load growth to estimate power sector emissions. The analysis compares resulting grid emissions with emissions from conventional petroleum fuels, using a full-fuel-cycle method that accounts for the production, delivery and use of fuels in the transportation and electricity sectors.

Without electrification, the results point to a 24% reduction in GHG emissions relative to 2015 levels, based on current policies that require greater efficiency for new vehicles, along with additional, assumed improvements. The results indicate that electrification could displace emissions from conventional petroleum-fueled vehicles for each scenario as follows:

  • In the Base GHG scenario, emissions were reduced by 430 million metric tons annually in 2050—equivalent to removing 80 million passenger cars from the road.

  • In the Lower GHG scenario, emissions were reduced by 550 million metric tons annually in 2050—equivalent to removing 100 million passenger cars.

When combining reductions from vehicle electrification, a cleaner electric sector, and existing programs that improve conventional vehicle efficiency, the modeled electricity and transportation sectors together achieve a 48% reduction in GHG emissions between 2015 and 2050 in the Base GHG scenario, and a 70% reduction in the Lower GHG scenario.

In the Lower GHG scenario, in 2050, total emissions for the electricity and transportation sectors could be reduced by 2610 million metric tons relative to 2015 levels.

While electric vehicles are cleaner than petroleum-fueled vehicles today, the greenhouse gas reductions can be maximized by charging vehicles from a cleaner grid. With a 62% share of light- and medium-duty vehicles in 2050 electric vehicles would consume 13% of grid-supplied electricity.

Transportation electrification can lead to modest, but widespread air quality benefits. The electrification case assumes that the overall fraction of vehicle miles traveled by the US vehicle fleet using electricity stored in batteries is 17% for light-duty vehicles and 8% for medium-duty vehicles. For non-road equipment, the fraction in 2030 varies for electrified equipment types depending upon their characteristic applications and uses. Emissions from transportation and power sectors were calculated and subsequent effects on air quality were modeled in the continental United States, using a comprehensive three-dimensional atmospheric model.

Considering the electric power sector and transportation sectors together, net emissions of pollutants leading to atmospheric ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) decrease in the electrification scenario. Modeling simulations indicate that even considering recent Tier 3 vehicle emission standards, electrifying on-road vehicles can result in modest, yet widespread reductions in ozone and PM2.5 levels throughout the United States.

Electrifying non-road equipment provides significant air quality benefits, in some cases greater than those of on-road electrification, particularly in urban areas. The electrification scenario also showed reductions in the deposition of acids and nutrients that can damage ecosystems.

Today’s study gives us a clear vision of how expanding transportation electrification is a key strategy to achieving critical greenhouse gas and air quality goals. This underscores the important role utilities can play nationally in accelerating the market through efforts such as investing in infrastructure to support public and workplace charging stations and incorporating EVs into our own fleets.

—Ted Craver, chairman, president and CEO of Edison International

Utilities supporting this research include American Electric Power; British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (BC Hydro); Duke Energy Corporation; FirstEnergy Corporation; LG&E and KU; New York Power Authority; Oglethorpe Power Corporation; Oncor Electric Company; Southern California Edison; Southern Company; Seattle City Light; and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

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Comments

HarveyD

TESLA Model S will soon have serious competition.

A new German-Italian extended range BEV, the Thunder Power Motors, with a 125 kWh battery pack and 650+ Km range will soon be produced in Germany and in China, in two different versions: 1) a 230 hp TWD and a 2) 320 hp AWD. Will do 0-100kph in less than 5 seconds.

The Chinese price tag will be 400,000 yuans (approx. $82,000 CAN or $61,500 USD)

This car looks a lot like a Tesla Model S for many thousands $$ less with almost 50% more battery capacity. It should be good for a year round average of 500 Km in our old weather area.

This looks like a car that I (and many others) could buy.

SJC

Running cellulose E85 hybrids would help as well.

HarveyD

HEVs, PHEVs and bio-fuel ICEVss are useful short term interim measures to lower fossil fuel consumption and GHG.

BEVs with improved, very quick charge, 125+ kWh batteries and FCEVs with over 650 Km range are the final solutions.

The world will have to reduce and/or stop burning fossil and bio-fuels to survive.

Sirkulat

The ideal all-battery EV is the electric Smart Car; smallest battery pack in a vehicle designed for short trips at low speeds. Tesla sport coupes are only good for those who so much money they don't know what to do with it.

DaveD

Sirkulat,
I can't agree with you. I think Tesla's are good for people who have enough money that they're going to buy a Mercedes S, BMW 5 or 7 or a Porsche Panamera. Hey, if you're going to spend between $75k-$125k, why not consider a Tesla instead?

I happen to agree with you about more money than they know what to do with. Of course I used to do that until I finally grew out of it so I can't complain about people doing it now. And I have to admit, I'm tempted to get a Model S or that new Porsche EV they previewed this week LOL

mahonj

You won't "save the world" with $80K EVs.
You might save it with $20 - $30K EVs.

At this price, something will have to give and that thing will be battery size. Thus, you end up with a car like a Leaf, which is adequate for most of the driving that most people do, but not ALL the driving (due to range constraints).

One solution is to wait until batteries get cheap enough (which they may do), an other is to add a range extender, or use PHEVs, a third is to find a socially acceptable way of sharing / swapping cars.

If you only do long runs now and again, it might be acceptable to drive to a car swap station (like a rental place), swap into an ICE and have your holiday and pick your charged EV up on the way home again.
There are many variations on this - you could use a car from a friend, join a car swap club, rent a car as we do now, have a "valet" car swap service where someone else drives to your house in the ICE and drives off in your EV etc. etc.

It might catch on, it might not. Governments could help by forcing insurance companies to allow easy policy swaps, but it could help get people into EVs without technological breakthroughs, just administrative ones.

HarveyD

Another potential solution for lower cost BEVs would be the use of standardized add-on plug-in battery modules.

Buyers could start with the smallest lowest cost 20 kWh module and add more modules, whenever they need more range and/or can afford more modules up to 120+ kWh.
In most countries, the first module(s) could be covered by subsides, making the first limited range BEV relatively cheap or as cheap as equivalent ICEVs.

Cost of mass produced standardized add-on modules will certainly go down, about every year or so, if not faster!

DaveD

Harvey, That's not a bad idea at all.

HarveyD

As demonstrated by California, the extra subsidies to fully cover the cost of the initial (one or two) 20 kWh battery modules, could be financed by the rapid reduction of health care cost.

When battery cost is effectively reduced to zero, the initial purchase price of small and mid-size EVs would not be more than equivalent ICEVs.

Sirkulat

My argument, DaveD, is based on the assumption that modern society must reduce driving VMT overall, rather than maintain ever increasing VMT with electric propulsion. The short trip electric Smart Car aligns with that assumption. Longer drives with a plug-in hybrid 'ought' come with the higher price for fuel, thus posing an economic disincentive for longer routine drives. Thus, long-range BEVs do not impose costs on motorists as definitively as do PHEVs. The capacity to recharge BEVs via regional utility grids is questionable. Rooftop solar PV systems matched to small battery PHEVs and benefits become affordable for more households etc etc.

It's an argument that BEV purists would rather not stuff in their pipe and smoke.

Bob Wallace

"You won't "save the world" with $80K EVs.
You might save it with $20 - $30K EVs."

How about <$20k EVs? EVs with at least a 150 mile range?

Consider the Nissan Versa. Priced from $12k to $16k, depending on the feature level. About 40% of the cost of a ICEV is the engine and support systems (cooling, fuel, exhaust), IIRC. That makes the engineless cost of a Versa $7,200 to $9,600. That's the cost of building a body and finishing it out with all seats/AC/radio/windshield washer stuff.

When the Tesla Gigafactory is running the battery pack price is expected to fall to about $130/kWh. Let's use $150/kWh. At 0.27 kWh/mile one would need roughly a 40 kWh battery pack. At $150/kWh that would cost $6k. Add in a couple thousand to cover electric motor and controller.

Now we've got a Versa sized car with 150 miles of range for $15,200 to $17,600.

At under $16k we'd have a car with good interior room, AC, all the basics.

Making it an EV would increase safety due to the empty frunk crumple zone and with the batteries placed below the floorboard it would be very difficult to roll.

The ride should be much smoother due the increased weight and the lower center of gravity would decrease body roll.

Eliminating the ICE would make the car much quieter and smoother riding.

And it would accelerate like a poked pig.

Now, will one of the US car manufacturers step up and grab this market share or will be gift it to China?

HarveyD

@BW:

As with current TVs, PCs, Laptops, Tablets, Cell Phones, small batteries, solar cells (etc), China may very well corner the market for future lower cost (below $100/kWh) EV batteries.

The intial cost of the first 20 kWh module on future small and mid-size BEVs could be fully covered by subsidies and/or by interest free loan.

Applying the above could make the average BEVs competitive with ICEVs and rid the country of about 40% of GHG and reduce oïl imports to zero.

Bob Wallace

China may, but I'd say the odds are that China won't.

Battery manufacturing doesn't have a large labor input and China's labor force is shrinking and, as well, workers are seeking higher wages. China's huge labor cost advantage is shrinking. As well, the Chinese are consuming more which means that China will have less to export.

EV batteries are bulky and heavy. It's more likely that EV batteries will be built closer to where they are sold/installed in EVs. I suspect that means that we'll see large battery factories spread around the world, like what is happening now with vehicle manufacturing.

The question, I suspect, is who will own the battery plants. Which will likely be the companies, regardless of country of origin, which can develop the best batteries (there may be more than one).
--

I think we're very close to the point at which EVs and batteries need no subsidy.

If you look at my previous post it looks like we can build 150 mile range EVs for $15k and 200 mile range EVs for $20k. There's no need to subsidized cars selling at those prices.

And think it upscale. If BMW can turn out a nice car for $30k, so can Tesla. Except Tesla's will be electric with all the advantages of electric.

It really looks like subsidies have done the job they were designed to do. We'll know soon if Tesla can produce <$150/kWh battery packs. If Tesla can do it then other vehicle manufacturers will be forced to do the same.

JMartin

Subsidize charging stations, not batteries. If every employer and parking lot had a number of charging stations, few people would worry about 150 miles. <100 would be fine for most local trips, if you can charge while parked on one end. Maybe <50.

HarveyD

Mr. Musk claims that the TESLAs will soon do 1000 to 1200 Km between charges. Future 3 - 3 - ? batteries will do that and more.

Lack of afforable e-range may be a short term problem and should be solved sometime between 2000 and 2005 or so with lower cost, longer lasting, higher performance batteries?

Bob Wallace

"Mr. Musk claims that the TESLAs will soon do 1000 to 1200 Km between charges."

Yes. And no.

Not 1,000 km/600 miles in normal driving. That number is when the ModS is being driven slowly and steadily around a flat track.

What Elon has said is that he sees a clear route to 400 mile (640 km) range EVs by 2020. I assume he means ModS priced EVs, not moderately priced EVs with that sort of range.

I'm assuming affordable ~200 mile range EVs before 2020. By affordable I mean EVs selling for about the average new car price of $33.5K. That's what the Mod3 should bring. (And by 200 mile range I assume enough capacity to get one 200 miles with the heater or AC running.)

If that happens then I think the start gate opens and lots of manufacturers will get very serious about getting a hunk of the EV market. By 2025 we should see 200 mile range EVs below $25k.

Most people really do not need more than 200 miles of range. With that much range and access to rapid chargers you can make the all day drive you'll do only a few times a year (if at all) in just a little longer time than if you were driving an ICEV.

Those who do long distance driving frequently will want to buy more range.

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