- Journal Article
Summary: The electrification of private cars and light trucks—the vast majority of which are now powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs)—will be critical to efforts to keep global warming well below 2°C or 1.5°C, the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. Replacing today’s fleet of gasoline and diesel ICEs with plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery (BEV) electric vehicles (EVs) could practically eliminate emissions from these light-duty vehicles as part of a broader strategy to decarbonize the transportation sector.
To better understand the potential impact of electric vehicle deployment on total global carbon dioxide emissions, MIT Joint Program researchers enhanced the MIT Economic Projection and Policy Analysis (EPPA) model to represent the fleet dynamics of light-duty vehicles (LDVs) including ICEs, PHEVs and BEVs. Using the enhanced model, they projected global and regional LDV emissions under different climate policy scenarios between the years 2015 and 2050.
The study considered a range of increasingly stringent policy scenarios, from a reference scenario that excludes national pledges delineated in the Paris Agreement to one aligned with the accord’s long-term 2°C goal. The researchers found that as the number of global LDVs grows from 1.1 billion to 1.6-1.8 billion between 2015 and 2050, EV units increase from 1 million to 585-825 million, and thus account for one-third (reference scenario) to one-half (2°C scenario) of the global LDV fleet. Even as the global LDV fleet grows by about 50 percent over the study period, total fleet CO2 emissions decline by about 50 percent under the 2°C scenario (compared to 10 percent in the reference scenario).
The study suggests that the electrification of light-duty vehicles could play an important role in broader efforts to mitigate global climate change, and highlights the caliber of insights that can be gained from including more precise representation of electric vehicle fleet dynamics in economy-wide energy-economic models.