EVs: Towards Carbon-Neutral Transportation

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Transport decarbonisation in Europe must speed up. As the transport sector is responsible for a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions in Europe, concrete policy measures are needed for EU countries to reduce their carbon footprint sufficiently to meet the goals set by the Paris Climate Accords.

Electrification – along with the adoption of clean energy sources – is expected to play a key role in the decarbonisation of the sector, so long as the necessary infrastructure is made suitable to support a global switch to electric vehicles.

Let us delve deeper into the benefits of EVs in facilitating our effort to combat climate change.


Electric Vehicles to Speed Up Decarbonisation: The Part of the Transport Sector in Global CO2 Emissions


Electric vehicles are at the top of the narrative that surrounds transport decarbonisation. Transports’ environmental impact is such that it constitutes the top cause of air and noise pollution in urban areas. Despite this alarming realisation, the sector has made little progress to date, with an increase in CO2 emissions from new cars for three consecutive years until stricter CO2 targets for cars and vans were enforced in 2020.

Ensuring that all new sales of cars, suvs, vans, trucks, and buses are carbon neutral is the only way to achieve a zero-emission road transport system by 2050. As for the most widely feasible form of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), the consensus is that electric vehicles (EVs), are the only viable option. Even hybrid electric vehicles have been ruled out as their engines have dubious impacts on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The decarbonisation of our energy system and that of the transport sector are thus intrinsically connected. Combined with the increasingly clean energy mix the grid provides, the electrification of transport constitutes a very tangible step towards eliminating air pollution. It is expected to gradually make the sector less dependent on fossil fuel imports from outside Europe and, eventually, will allow it to become entirely carbon neutral.


The Electric Car Conquers Europe: A Revolution Is Underway


The European Commission has set a target to reach 100% CO2 emission reductions by 2035 for every new car model and is treating the decarbonisation of transport as a priority to ensure we get there. Consumers are following suit.

Globally, in 2022, 10.5 million new battery EVs (BEVs) and plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs) were delivered, an increase of more than 55% on 2021, making up 13% of all light-duty vehicles (LDVs) sold. In Europe, EV sales accounted for just over 20% of total vehicles sold in 2022, up from 17% in 2021. In total, 2.7 million were sold. There are now eight million EVs in Europe. At the moment, this number accounts for only 2% of the current share of cars on European roads, but this number is expected to pickup.

According to the EC Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the year 2030 should see over 30 million Zero-Emission Vehicles in circulation, provided energy savings in transport continue to be encouraged. By consistently phasing out Internal Combustion Engine vehicles, having all new vehicles on the road be emission-free by 2050 will become an achievable goal.


How to Speed Up the Electrification of Transport?

Vehicle Fleets Operated by Public Authorities and Private Companies

An eVision study revealed that Europe’s vehicle fleets operated by public authorities and private companies account for 20% of the vehicle park, which represents 63 million cars, vans, buses, and trucks. Despite this relatively low proportion, these vehicles are responsible for 40% of all kilometres travelled, and 50% of CO2 emissions from transport. Their electrification, which is more feasible for fleet owners than it is for individuals, would bring us much closer to achieving the European Green Goal of cutting transport emissions by 90% compared to 1990 and, eventually, building a climate-neutral Europe.

Because of their high vehicle turnover, fleets typically benefit from discounts applied to bulk sales, making the purchase of electric vehicles more attractive. In addition, route predictability isone of their main features , which means that these actors adopting EVs would help in the deployment of charging infrastructure that private electric car users could also take advantage of.

Multiplying the Offer

Availability and diversity will be key to ensure that everyone finds the right model with the features and performance to suit their single needs. To face the growing demand, vehicle manufacturers are implementing bolder electrification plans and scaling up their production.

In 2020, the public had about 370 electric car models to choose from, which is a 40% increase compared to 2019. According to Bloomberg NEF, 22 new models of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and 33 new models of battery electric vehicles have hit the market between 2019 and 2022.

At the end of 2021, more than 450 electric car models were available globally. This is already evident by looking at what’s on offer on the market: top automakers like Tesla, Ford, Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes, Hyundai, and Bmw are investing billions to come up with a more efficient model with improved performance every year. Greater investment translates into greater vehicle choice.

At this pace, by 2040, 38% of all passenger vehicles are going to be fully electric, leading to an ever more vibrant second-hand market and allowing consumers to buy EVs at a more accessible price.

Making Electric Vehicles more affordable

To speed up the electrification of transport throughout Europe, making EVs more affordable – and, ideally, more affordable than the alternative – will be essential. While an electric vehicle tax credit system is still in place in Member States, the IEA indicates that “the share of government incentives in total spending on electric cars has decreased over the past five years, suggesting that EVs are becoming increasingly attractive to consumers”.

According to a 2021 survey conducted by Eurelectric and Accenture, 36% of respondents considered electric vehicles too expensive, while 11% were not convinced by their driving range. Although the typical autonomy of an electric vehicle battery today is superior to that of the earlier models (350 km in 2020 vs 200 km in 2015), battery technology must continue to improve. Its advances in performance and efficiency will also contribute to driving down the cost of EVs.

According to the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), the total cost of ownership of small and medium-sized electric vehicles in the EU – even factoring in the cost of installing a home charging point – will be the same as that of traditional vehicles.

Bloomberg, on the other hand, estimates that price parity should be achieved by 2024. As fossil fuel continues to be phased out, private individuals will start to find driving an EV to be more affordable than driving a car with an internal combustion engine.


Dispelling Myths to Change Mentalities Around Electric Vehicles


In the past, electric cars were surrounded by prejudices, like the alleged poor road performance of the standard models, which made them seem not worth their price. These myths have already been debunked by the newest types of EVs release every year in the market: their features include higher speed, optimised efficiency and more miles of autonomy.

However, several persistent beliefs continue to sway the general opinion against the adoption of electric cars. For instance, many think that switching to electric vehicles will be pointless until our electricity production is entirely carbon neutral. Currently, 66% of the electricity generated in the EU is already carbon neutral.

Charging points that rely solely on renewable energy are available to a wide range of consumers across Europe, 93% of whom can opt to use them to charge their vehicle.

In addition, the average carbon intensity of Europe’s electricity consumption is continuing to decrease, to the point that relying on the average EU electricity mix to power an EV now emits a maximum of 60 g CO2 per kilometre. Any fossil-fuelled vehicle on the roads generates much more carbon.

The same goes for the belief that a mass switch to electric vehicles would make the grid collapse, and that the improvements required to make it sustain their adoption would be too expensive. As cars are parked 95% of the time, not only do they offer significant flexibility when it comes to charging, but they could contribute to stabilising the grid.

Thanks to the Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) system, a type of technology that allows EVs to store power and release it back to the grid at times of peak demand, EVs can work as a battery on wheels contributing to the flexibility of the grid.Car owners whose vehicles are used in that way could even be remunerated.

Today, there are over 374,000 public charging points in Europe. By 2035, this number will need to rise to at least 65 million, of which 9 million will be public and 56 million residential. While meeting this exponential growth, charging infrastructure must also become more equally distributed.

In 2022, 66% of all EU charging points were concentrated in just five countries – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK. Meanwhile, 10 European countries have less than one charge point for every 100 kilometres of road. Greece, Bulgaria, and Lithuania, for instance, have just over 650 charge points between them.


Hybrid Electric Vehicles vs Battery Electric Vehicles


Many consumers worry about how long charging an electric vehicle can take and continue to favour hybrid electric vehicles for that reason. The fact is that most users charge their car at home overnight, which ensures they will be able to drive at least 300 km the next day. The same goes for those who opt to charge their vehicle at their workplace, since a 60 kWh-battery can reach full charge under six hours.

While they can alleviate this concern by relying on both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine that runs on gas, hybrid electric vehicles cannot be plugged in to charge. Plug-in hybrids, on the other hand, have a larger all-electric range than traditional hybrids and do not need to use gas to generate their own electricity. With that said, neither is an entirely carbon-neutral option, which means that purely electric models have to be favoured in the long run.

Research is unambiguous: a full switch to electric vehicles is the top solution to lower carbon emissions and counter the effects of global warming. Efforts must continue in order to overhaul the transport system as we know it, including massive investment in a charging infrastructure that will need to support this evolution.

A smart grid will sustain the electrification of the sector and ensure this transformation occurs seamlessly. While e-mobility remains a challenge, it can be faced for the benefit of every single segment of society, bringing cleaner, quieter means of transportation with high performance and efficiency everywhere at a wide range of prices, and ultimately coming to a significant increase in purchasing power for European consumers.

Eurelectric is committed to facilitating the uptake and expansion of e-mobility across Europe. Yet, any successful European transition to a decarbonised and electrified transport system calls for cross-sectorial collaboration. Emerging players must identify shared operational challenges and exchange best practices to reach mutually beneficial solutions.

To this end, Eurelectric has launched the EVision business hub, which convenes from January to December the various market players from the transport sector, power industry and digital sphere. We are now ready to unlock the six essentials of e-mobility at our annual event EVision on 21-22 march.