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Biofuels, Fuel Economy & EVs Needed for Low Carbon Mobility

06.07.16 | Blog | By:

A recent study from Argonne National Laboratory and U.S. Drive suggests that biofuels, fuel economy and electric vehicles (EVs) will be needed for low carbon mobility in the future. The study provides a comprehensive lifecycle analysis (LCA) of the cost and GHG emissions of a variety of vehicle-fuel pathways, the levelized cost of driving (LCD) and cost of avoided GHG emissions and estimates the technology readiness levels (TRLs) of key fuel and vehicle technologies along the pathways.

The analysis captures a full portfolio of midsize light-duty vehicles (LDVs), including conventional internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Low- and high-volume current technology and future technology cases were considered:

Source: Argonne National Laboratory

The selected fuel pathways were constrained to those deemed to be scalable to at least approximately 10% of LDV fleet demand in the future. The figure below shows that larger GHG reductions for LDVs are achieved with both low-carbon fuels and vehicle efficiency improvements. The black lines represent the C2G GHG emissions for the current technology case.

The red lines show that lower GHG emissions can be realized in the future technology case across all vehicle platforms due to vehicle efficiency gains. Combining vehicle efficiency gains with low-carbon fuels (lines at head of each arrow), the GHG reductions generally more than double compared to vehicle gains alone, according to the report.

Not surprisingly, BEVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles supported by renewable energy come out on top, but pyrolysis-based production of gasoline, diesel and E85 from corn stover were right behind. I think this is important for those who want to write off biofuels altogether in favor of alternate technologies, especially E85. All of these options are going to be needed along with strong fuel economy standards (clearly shown here) to sustain mobility in the future.

Source: Argonne National Laboratory

But the study is clear that it’s going to cost us. None of these low carbon options are cheap. In the future technology, high volume case, the carbon abatement costs are expected to be in the range of $100 to $1,000/ton CO range. At the lower end of the range were PEVs with pyrolysis supported by renewable energy; at the higher end were certain diesel and BEV combinations.


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