Jul 15, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Why transitioning to electric vehicles might be cheaper in the long run

Falling costs for battery and fuel cell technology mean that governments can push for widespread deployment of zero-emissions vehicles without straining taxpayers, University of California, Davis researchers say.

Why it matters: Transportation overtook electricity generation a few years ago as the nation's largest source of carbon dioxide emissions.

  • However, zero-emissions vehicles typically come with higher upfront costs, and widespread adoption requires new charging infrastructure.

The big picture: Analysts with the school's Institute of Transportation Studies have been modeling projected costs — and ultimately savings — from transitioning moving to zero-emissions cars, trucks and buses in California.

  • Their analysis this year shows substantially lower costs and larger eventual savings than even projects made a year ago.

By the numbers: The latest analysis, based on achieving an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions from transportation by 2050, finds a total of $7 billion in "transition costs" between 2020 and 2028.

  • That's substantially lower than projected costs when the conducted the same modeling in 2019.

Where it stands: The analysis comes as California officials are looking to substantially boost electric vehicle penetration, including new regulations last month on truck sales. Dan Sperling, a co-author of the UC-Davis analysis, is a member of the California Air Resources Board.

The bottom line: "After 2030, the costs of owning and operating [zero-emissions vehicles] are projected to be lower than gasoline and diesel cars and trucks. The savings, from 2030 to 2045 could reach $100 billion," they write.

  • They also note that taxpayers as a whole need not bear the costs, citing policy options like fees on buyers of inefficient internal combustion vehicles combined with rebates for zero-emissions vehicle buyers.
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