EEA Says New Electricity Generation Needed to Support EVs in Europe

09.28.16 | Blog | By:

EEA this week released a briefing paper on the implications for emissions and Europe’s electricity system arising from the potential wide-scale use of electric cars in 2050. An assessment commissioned by the EEA explored these impacts using two scenarios:

  1. The share of electric vehicles as part of the entire EU-28 car fleet in 2050 was assumed to be 50% (on average);
  2. The share of electric vehicles in 2050 was assumed to be 80%.

The resulting changes in energy demand, CO2 and selected air pollutant emissions were quantified. They were then compared with a European Commission “reference” projection, which assumes that 80% of Europe’s car fleet would be electric in 2050. Other sectors and their potential future reductions in energy demand were not taken into account.

The assessment found that:

  • Additional electricity generation will be required in the EU to meet the extra energy demand arising from an 80% share of electric vehicles in 2050. The share of Europe’s total electricity consumption from electric vehicles will increase from approximately 0.03% in 2014 to around 4-5% by 2030 and 9.5% by 2050.
  • The integration of the additional energy demand caused by electric vehicles poses challenges for the management of power systems at local, national and European levels.
  • Increasing the numbers of electric vehicles can significantly reduce direct emissions of CO2 and air pollutants from road transport. However, these positive effects are partially offset by additional emissions caused by the additional electricity required and continued fossil fuel use in the power sector projection in 2050, shown in the chart below.

eea_chart

EEA seems to recognize that electric vehicles are not a panacea or silver bullet, and that seems to contrast with the views of other policymakers around the world that are counting on EVs to deliver on air pollution and climate mitigation (and even congestion mitigation with autonomous driving/car sharing):

Electric vehicles are just one way in which Europe can move towards a more resource efficient economy and decarbonised transport system. Replacing conventional vehicles with electric vehicles can help reduce emissions, although how much it helps depends significantly upon the source of the electricity used to charge vehicles: renewable, nuclear power or fossil fuel sources. However, simply replacing conventional vehicles will not solve other transport-related problems such as growing congestion and increasing demand for roading infrastructure. A ┬ásystematic transformation is needed, including further development of renewable biofuels, a shift towards non-motorised and/or public transport and changing the ways in which we use our transport systems. This will help achieve the EU’s commitment to a more resource efficient, green and competitive low-carbon economy.

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