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Electrifying Australian transport: Hybrid life cycle analysis of a transition to electric light-duty vehicles and renewable electricity

Paul Wolfram and Thomas Wiedmann

Applied Energy, 2017, vol. 206, issue C, 531-540

Abstract: Recent life cycle assessments confirmed the greenhouse gas emission reduction potential of renewable electricity and electric vehicle technologies. However, each technology is usually assessed separately and not within a consistent macro-economic, multi-sectoral framework. Here we present a multi-regional input-output based hybrid approach with integrated scenarios to facilitate the carbon footprint assessment of all direct and indirect effects of a transition to low-emission transportation and electricity generation technologies in Australia. The work takes into account on-road energy consumption values that are more realistic than official drive-cycle energy consumption figures used in previous work. Accounting for these factors as well as for Australia’s grid electricity, which heavily relies on coal power, electric vehicles are found to have a higher carbon footprint than conventional vehicles, whereas hybrid electric vehicles have the lowest. This means that – from a carbon footprint perspective – powertrain electrification is beneficial only to a certain degree at the current stage. This situation can be changed by increasing shares of renewable electricity in the grid. In our best-case scenario, where renewable energy accounts for 96% of the electricity mix in 2050, electric vehicle carbon footprints can be cut by 66% by 2050 relative to 2009. In the business-as-usual scenario (36% renewable electricity share by 2050), electric vehicles can reach a 56% reduction if fossil fuel power plants significantly increase their efficiencies and use carbon capture and storage technologies.

Keywords: Multi-sectoral scenario analysis; Multi-regional input-output analysis; Hybrid life cycle assessment; Electric vehicles; Renewable energy; Real-world fuel consumption (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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