Electric Vehicles: Transitioning to a Sustainable Future
The US has a car culture. In 2010, 95% of American households owned a car and 85% of Americans drove to work each day. This is radically different from the lifestyle most Americans had after World War II, when 40% of Americans did not own cars. China and India are rapidly adopting the US living standard, and cars are flooding the streets. In 2011, China had 100 million cars on its streets, or about 10 percent of the more than 1 billion cars on streets worldwide. On average, 9.51 million automobiles were added each year between 2006 and 2010, exceeding the government’s ability to add roads and prepare for the increasing demand on transport infrastructure. Reacting to this mismatch, cities are establishing car quotas to attempt to slow the growth. This year in Beijing, for example, a car-quota system was put into effect, allowing the registration of no more than 240,000 new cars annually.
Similar to trends worldwide, Chinese buyers have shown little interest in the clean car and electric vehicle technology. Instead, sales of SUVs and luxury cars have risen; in China, SUV sales surged by 24%. With climate change’s severe implications on display in today’s environment, policy-makers must incentivize sustainable transportation technologies, such as public transportation or electric vehicles (EVs). In China, if the purchase price of EVs was subsidized by 57% to 67%, a recent report by the Deutsche Bank Group estimates that "66% of the end-market could be potential costumers compared to the 29% of the market now addressed by the current subsidies scheme." However, in order for EVs to be truly sustainable, electricity generation must be less coal-based, and instead be generated by renewable energy.
This spring, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) released the EV City Casebook, detailing the importance of reforming the transportation sector. "In 2009, transportation accounted for approximately one-fifth of the global primary energy use and one quarter of all energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, with nearly half of those emissions originating from passenger vehicles" (IEA).
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Vehicle image via Wikipedia