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NREL study finds rapid adoption of ZEVs will move to US to 80% or more drop in GHG emissions by 2050

The rapid adoption of zero-emission electric vehicles will move the nation close to an 80% or more drop in transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from the 2019 level according to researchers from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). An open-access paper on the work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers ran thousands of computer simulations on the steps needed to decarbonize passenger and freight travel, which make up the largest contributor to greenhouse gases. While they advised that “no single technology, policy, or behavioral change” is enough by itself to reach the target, eliminating tailpipe emissions would be a major factor.

There are reasons to be optimistic and several remaining areas to explore. In the scientific community, there is a lot of agreement around what needs to happen to slash transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, especially when it comes to electrification. But there is high uncertainty for future transportation emissions and electricity needs, and this unique analysis helps shed light on the conditions that drive these uncertainties.

—Chris Hoehne, a mobility systems research scientist at NREL and lead author

The researchers analyzed in detail 50 deep decarbonization scenarios, showing that rapid adoption of ZEVs is essential alongside a simultaneous transition to a clean electric grid. Equally important is managing travel demand growth, which would reduce the amount of clean electricity supply needed.

The researchers found the most dynamic variable in reducing total transportation-related emissions are measures to support the transition to ZEVs.

Using a model called Transportation Energy & Mobility Pathway Options (TEMPO), the researchers performed more than 2,000 simulations to determine what will be needed to decarbonize passenger and freight travel. The study explores changes in technology, behavior, and policies to envision how passenger and freight systems can successfully transition to a sustainable future.

Policy changes may require new regulations that drive the adoption of electric vehicles, for example. Technology solutions will call for continued advancements in batteries, fuel cells, and sustainable biofuels, among others.

Behavior comes into play in considering shifts in population and travel needs. Someone moving away from an urban core, for example, might have to travel longer distances to work.

By employing a combination of strategies, the study shows that the maximum potential for 2050 decarbonization across the simulated scenarios is an 89% reduction in greenhouse gases relative to 2019, equivalent to an 85% reduction from the 2005 baseline.

Funding was provided by the US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Strategic Analysis Team.


  • Hoehne, C., Muratori, M., Jadun, P. et al. (2023) “Exploring decarbonization pathways for USA passenger and freight mobility.” Nat Commun 14, 6913 doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-42483-0



Might this be a solution to all of our energy problems???


Fairy Tale Nonsense.
Witness the 'small print': "... Equally important is managing travel demand growth, which would reduce the amount of clean electricity supply needed. ..."
Any scenario that fails to include: an average of 2%+ GDP growth long-term over all sectors, large vehicles doing big miles as part of a sophisticated shipping and road-trip culture-even larger than now, maintaining 'productive' rich populations at/or about 90% of current replacement value, and a society of high-wealth/opportunity based on a rich, on-shoring of all mining, industrial, commercial, and residential supply lines; is dead in the water. No sane person wants to impose a 'green' but 'mildly-impoverished' living standard on their kids, family, community, and country - when they see what is does over years. Witness today's (and the last part-year's) high inflation, low productivity, and moderate scarcity -- this is what a 'green first' world looks like in a G7 country x2. Chaos. Many-many times as much civil disobedience against prices and politics than carbon and pollution over the last few years (as if these Anarchists and Activists would ever quiet down and get back to work, anyway) - wake up. We will do what we always do: make a highly profitable mess and clean it up innovatively and effectively after, learning and improving as we go -- pushing society forward. Adversity is the mother of Invention, always. Life is too complicated to do it 'right the first time' slowly and methodically. It is fine and dandy that we have happened upon a modern day Leonardo DaVinci/Edison personage in Elon Musk who pushed vehicle electrification forward by almost 2 decades of where it otherwise would have been -- but that does not excuse our fundamental imperative to be a techno-industrially- and culturally-advanced society - when it appears that the remaining 90% of the world can't do it. You want a truly compelling impetus to push all things electric, battery, hydrogen, carbon-reduction, etc., etc., forward -- diminish NIMBYism, the EPA, and the Endangered xx Act(s).

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