Bocconi Students for Sustainable Finance

The Biden’s administration should not ignore hybrid cars

 

During the Earth Day climate Summit hosted by US President Joe Biden on 22-23 of April, the climate goals made at the 2015 Paris accords were revived; such goals include limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, an objective attainable solely through a consistent reduction of greenhouse gases and vehicles’ emissions.

The most linear solution to the problem seems to be a massive shift to Electric vehicles (EV): recently China imposed a mandate on automakers requiring that EVs make up 40% of all sales by 2030, and by the same date European Directorate General for Mobility and Transport aims to have at least 30 million zero emission cars in operation on European roads. Finally, America’s 46th President announced a $174 billion in federal funding to realize an “EV nirvana”.

An Electric vehicle has a battery and an electric motor powerful enough to deliver adequate range and performance without the need to include an engine or gas tank at all. Even if at first glance it could appear as the definitive solution, EVs do present some issues: as reported by Ashley Nunes in an article published on the online version of the Financial Times, Electric vehicles are pricier than gasoline powered autos, and the incentives proposed by the Biden’s administration may not be sufficient to convince the general public.

 Nunes, research fellow at the Harvard Law School, described the well-known Norwegian case: the Scandinavian country has long made use of incentives to boost EVs sales, comprehending discount on local ferries, free access to bus lanes and relevant reduction of import taxes.

The effort has brought its results, and today about 54% of all new car sales are electric; nevertheless, it appears that Electric vehicles are purchased by Norwegian households as second cars. This also explains why data show that miles covered in an electric car are extremely lower than those driven in gasoline ones.

The researcher suggests that an alternative could be boosting hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) sales: the adjective hybrid refers to all those vehicles that do not rely solely on gasoline engine for propulsion; in fact, these vehicles also have an electric motor that power the car in order to delay the use of the gasoline engine and save fuel. Electric motors function as generators when the driver presses the brakes. Conversely “plug-in hybrid” vehicles have larger battery that can be recharged through an external power source, and thanks to the more powerful electric motor these cars can proceed in full electric mode for some time, a feature which is key for daily short distance trips.

Nunes concludes its argumentations outlining the affinity for hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles for low and middle income families owning a single car, as these can be used daily in the full electric mode without the inconvenience of frequent pauses during long trips.

In addition to the aforementioned $174 billions plan Biden in January declared the intention to shift the entire government’s fleet of cars and trucks to electric vehicles assembled in the U.S. as part of the new “Buy America” executive order. Nonetheless a subitaneous shift of the 645,000 vehicles’ fleet could not be possible, as only Tesla, General Motors and Nissan Motor produce EVs domestically; again the purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles may be a solution for all the in-city services.

Detractors of hybrid cars claim that these still produce greenhouse gases and well to wheel emissions, and that a more drastic change is needed; still, we should bear in mind that also full electric vehicles can pollute. Apart from the problematic disposal of the batteries containing toxic chemicals, another problem is posed by the source of the electric energy consumed: an analysis performed by the U.S. Department of Energy outlines that EVs and PHEVs running on electricity have zero tailpipe emissions, but emissions may be produced by the source of electrical power, such as a power plant. In geographic areas that use relatively low polluting energy sources for electric generation PHEVs and EVs have lower emission than similar conventional vehicles, but the same benefits do not hold anymore in regions depending heavily on coal for electric generation.

In conclusion, the effort put by countries and companies to shift to a full electric mobility is essential to achieve the climate goals proposed six years ago in Paris, but too drastic steps may lead to more harms than benefits.

At times big things happen when small things are done right.

Sources:

 

Author: Andrea Pavese

RELATED

The Biden’s administration should not ignore hybrid cars

During the Earth Day climate Summit hosted by US President Joe Biden on 22-23 of April, the climate goals made at the 2015 Paris accords were revived; such goals include limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, an objective attainable solely through a consistent reduction of greenhouse gases and vehicles’ emissions.

The most linear solution to the problem seems to be a massive shift to Electric vehicles (EV): recently China imposed a mandate on automakers requiring that EVs make up 40% of all sales by 2030, and by the same date European Directorate General for Mobility and Transport aims to have at least 30 million zero emission cars in operation on European roads. Finally, America’s 46th President announced a $174 billion in federal funding to realize an “EV nirvana”.

An Electric vehicle has a battery and an electric motor powerful enough to deliver adequate range and performance without the need to include an engine or gas tank at all. Even if at first glance it could appear as the definitive solution, EVs do present some issues: as reported by Ashley Nunes in an article published on the online version of the Financial Times, Electric vehicles are pricier than gasoline powered autos, and the incentives proposed by the Biden’s administration may not be sufficient to convince the general public.

 Nunes, research fellow at the Harvard Law School, described the well-known Norwegian case: the Scandinavian country has long made use of incentives to boost EVs sales, comprehending discount on local ferries, free access to bus lanes and relevant reduction of import taxes.

The effort has brought its results, and today about 54% of all new car sales are electric; nevertheless, it appears that Electric vehicles are purchased by Norwegian households as second cars. This also explains why data show that miles covered in an electric car are extremely lower than those driven in gasoline ones.

The researcher suggests that an alternative could be boosting hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) sales: the adjective hybrid refers to all those vehicles that do not rely solely on gasoline engine for propulsion; in fact, these vehicles also have an electric motor that power the car in order to delay the use of the gasoline engine and save fuel. Electric motors function as generators when the driver presses the brakes. Conversely “plug-in hybrid” vehicles have larger battery that can be recharged through an external power source, and thanks to the more powerful electric motor these cars can proceed in full electric mode for some time, a feature which is key for daily short distance trips.

Nunes concludes its argumentations outlining the affinity for hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles for low and middle income families owning a single car, as these can be used daily in the full electric mode without the inconvenience of frequent pauses during long trips.

In addition to the aforementioned $174 billions plan Biden in January declared the intention to shift the entire government’s fleet of cars and trucks to electric vehicles assembled in the U.S. as part of the new “Buy America” executive order. Nonetheless a subitaneous shift of the 645,000 vehicles’ fleet could not be possible, as only Tesla, General Motors and Nissan Motor produce EVs domestically; again the purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles may be a solution for all the in-city services.

Detractors of hybrid cars claim that these still produce greenhouse gases and well to wheel emissions, and that a more drastic change is needed; still, we should bear in mind that also full electric vehicles can pollute. Apart from the problematic disposal of the batteries containing toxic chemicals, another problem is posed by the source of the electric energy consumed: an analysis performed by the U.S. Department of Energy outlines that EVs and PHEVs running on electricity have zero tailpipe emissions, but emissions may be produced by the source of electrical power, such as a power plant. In geographic areas that use relatively low polluting energy sources for electric generation PHEVs and EVs have lower emission than similar conventional vehicles, but the same benefits do not hold anymore in regions depending heavily on coal for electric generation.

In conclusion, the effort put by countries and companies to shift to a full electric mobility is essential to achieve the climate goals proposed six years ago in Paris, but too drastic steps may lead to more harms than benefits.

At times big things happen when small things are done right.

Sources:

 

Author: Andrea Pavese

RELATED