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Which combination in transport to affect energy demand?

14 February 2019 11:20 (UTC+04:00)
Which combination in transport to affect energy demand?

By Trend

The net impact – on energy use and on oil demand – of disruptive change in transport will come from a combination of automation, electrification, and shared mobility (ride-hailing, ride sharing, and car-sharing), Anupama Sen, Senior Research Fellow at Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, told Trend.

It depends on questions such as: what will the regulatory environment be; what sort of governmental push will we get towards EVs; what are the fiscal implications of that; and, how will social preferences evolve, according to the expert.

Sen pointed out that there are various projections published by many agencies which show a wide range of variation in their projected forecasts for the growth of EVs. "All such projections basically boil down to the assumptions which go into the scenarios, and whether it can be said with certainty which of these will play out."

The interactions between automation, electrification, and shared mobility (also known as the 'three revolutions') are not clearly understood, which accounts for some of the very low projections by some oil companies of the impact of EVs on oil demand in transport, noted the expert.

" It is, however, clear that the metric that will determine the net impact on energy is not the absolute number of EVs, but Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT; also Vehicle Miles Travelled or VMT) as the three disruptions (EVs+automation+ride sharing) will manifest in the ways in which they change peoples’ travel behavior," she said.

Sen pointed out that automation on its own is likely to massively reduce the cost of travel, but there is likely to be a ‘rebound effect’; in other words, if automated travel becomes so cheap that there is no longer any incentive to ride-share, this could lead to an increase in VKT and consequently in energy use and emissions. ​

"Vehicle electrification in addition to automation would, on the other hand, result in lower energy use, as oil is substituted away in transport (the emissions implications of this scenario would depend on the source of electricity). Shared mobility, in addition to automation and electrification, could result in a drop in vehicle ownership and in the figure for VKT, bringing about a massive reduction in energy use – the literature on this estimates a 50 percent reduction over the automation plus electrification scenario by 2050," said the expert.

Sen noted that the big questions lie around how quickly the world can get to a ‘three revolutions’ scenario, whether the three disruptors will occur in combination, and what implications the interaction between automation and shared mobility in exclusion, or between electrification and shared mobility in exclusion, will be.

"The rapid growth in EVs seen over the last few years (approximately four million light duty EVs on the road globally, as of late 2018) is being driven primarily by the promotion of their use in city environments ('city' being defined as greater metropolitan areas surrounding an urban core) - EV uptake has also tended to vary significantly across different cities even within the same country," said the expert.

The biggest markets (cities) for EV growth at present are in China, the USA, Europe and Japan - these four markets account for the vast majority of EV sales today - specific cities within these countries/regions have the full package of policy incentives to encourage EV uptake ( the full policy package generally covers cost, model availability, convenience (e.g. charging infrastructure) and consumer understanding and awareness), she concluded.


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