In order to reach net zero emissions, do we alter the electricity infrastructure to increase electric vehicle market penetration or promote the adoption of electric vehicles?
The Paris Agreement at COP21 highlighted that, despite the reductions in carbon emissions recorded in other sectors, in the transport sector they have steadily increased, trending toward a 50% increase by 2030. Globally, the transport sector is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, accounting for around 17% of the world’s emissions. Thus, the topic of electric vehicles (EVs) has been the focal point of discussions in decarbonising the sector. However, there have been many critiques of the plausibility of transitioning to EVs and whether we should, (1) change the electricity generation grid, or (2) facilitate the transition to EVs by dismissing the emissions of the unchanged electricity generation mix. Will the transition be of environmental benefit? And what comes first: introducing large-scale EV adoption to facilitate decarbonisation through fiscal policies, or changing the infrastructure to stimulate the adoption of electric vehicles?
Therefore, the chicken and egg problem applies to the issue of electric vehicle adoption. Policy and decision-makers currently working on promoting ‘clean’ transport alternatives are stumped by this dilemma in the promotion of infrastructure-dependent technologies such as electric vehicle charging stations.
This dilemma can prohibit the successful dissemination of EVs, hindering the efforts to decarbonise the transport sector by prolonging the time required to achieve Paris Agreement emission targets.
So do we change the grid, or increase the market penetration to promote the decarbonisation of the grid?