U.S. Cannot Rely Solely on EVs to Reduce Climate Pollution

By Eric Sundquist

More research is emerging showing that EVs are not the “silver bullet” in reducing transportation climate emissions.

Last month we summarized a paper showing that we must rein in VMT as well as clean up vehicles and fuels in order to make progress on climate. Now a new paper published in Nature, by Alexandre Milovanoff and colleagues at the University of Toronto, provides similar findings.

To achieve the 2 degree C goal for limiting climate change, the paper found, the United States would have to reach a 100 percent market share for EVs as soon as 2035, and an on-road fleet that was 90 percent electric by 2050. In 2108, EV market share was 2.5 percent, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s most optimistic fleet scenario for 2050 is 19 percent.

Even if sales accelerate, supply-chain problems and energy-supply infrastructure still loom as impediments to universal EV adoption, the paper points out. Growing VMT and vehicle sizes both continue to grow emissions, reducing the net effect of electrification.

The paper concludes: “EVs offer an exceptional opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions. But electrification is not a silver bullet, and the arsenal should include a wide range of policies combined with a willingness to drive less with lighter, more efficient vehicles.”

Photo credit: ikkoskinen via Flickr, unmodified. License