Apr 27, 2022 - Energy & Environment

First look: Why clean power is crucial to EV scale-up

Projected transportation sector emissions, by policy scenario
Adapted from ICF Climate Center; Chart: Sara Wise

An ambitious scaling-up of electric vehicle deployment in the U.S. would slash transportation sector emissions, but could paradoxically boost emissions from the electricity sector unless paired with more clean power, a new report warns.

Why it matters: How national, state and local governments implement policies to increase EV adoption while balancing the transition toward renewable energy sources will help determine whether the U.S. can meet its climate goals.

  • The report, from the ICF Climate Center and provided first to Axios, uses five increasingly aggressive decarbonization policy scenarios at the state and national levels to map out potential futures for on-road transportation and the electric power sector.

Zoom in: It finds the current pace of EV adoption fails to put the U.S. on track to meet a net-zero transportation sector by 2050.

  • Existing state policies would yield only a 27% decline in on-road transportation greenhouse gas emissions, relative to 2020, it found.
  • Transitioning to 100% EV sales by 2050 could cut emissions from on-road transportation by two-thirds, compared to 2020.
  • If such high EV adoption rates are paired with a large-scale reworking of the electricity grid, the emissions cuts could be up to 82%.

Context: The transportation sector has the biggest greenhouse gas footprint of any in the U.S., and any increase in EVs would help reduce those emissions even without a clean grid, the report emphasizes.

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