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Alt Fuel Cars Alone Offer ‘No Compelling Climate Advantages’

Alt-fuel-vehicles-jun18 copyAlternative fuel vehicles alone can’t control global warming and policymakers should turn their focus to cutting emissions in other energy sectors, a study from University of Michigan’s Energy Institute finds.

In consideration of climate protection, public subsidies, mandates and other costly programs that support alternative fuel sales are not warranted, the report says. This is because gasoline vehicle efficiency is improving by about 4 percent per year, but emissions from US electric power generation are not even declining by 1 percent per year.

Factoring the car-climate challenge: Insights and implications by research professor John DeCicco says that policymakers have promoted alternative fuel vehicles for decades. Federal tax credits for electric vehicles range up to $7,500 per car and many other alternative fuels are also subsidized.

The report affirms that research and development into fuel-efficient vehicles is one important area of focus to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; however, policymakers should turn their focus to cutting emissions in other energy sectors, including oil wells, power plants and lands affected by biofuels production. DeCicco’s research shows that as long as carbon emissions in those other locations remain poorly controlled, there are no compelling climate advantages to alternative fuels and cars that use them. The most effective approaches, he says, are steadily improving vehicle efficiency and limiting travel demand.

The study examines expected increases in driving in US and China. It compares those projections to data on the carbon emissions associated with different fuels and the efficiency gains in vehicles that burn liquid fuels.

A separate study from Navigant Research finds that government policy does play a key role in the plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) markets by offering purchase incentives and regulating the fuel economy and emissions of internal combustion engine vehicles. Navigant Research anticipates that current incentives offered worldwide will remain in place, but are unlikely to be increased.

Electric Vehicle Market Forecasts Global Forecasts for Light Duty Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and Battery Electric Vehicles: 2013-2020 says that the increasingly larger share held by EVs, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric vehicles, also is driven by consumer demand for vehicles that cost less to operate, and a rebounding economic environment.

The Navigant report examines factors including gasoline and diesel fuel costs, decreasing costs of HEV and PHEV vehicles, and overall demand for light-duty vehicles to forecast global compound annual growth rates of 11.5 percent for HEVs, 31.9 percent for PHEVs, and 31.5 percent for BEVs.

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