Progress and Potential for Electric Vehicles to Reduce Carbon Emissions

This report details the current role that electric vehicles (EVs) play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the US transportation sector. It also looks forward to 2025 and beyond to assess the potential for EVs to reduce future GHG emissions. The authors summarize their most important findings here. First, EVs represent about one percent of all passenger vehicles on the road today, and though some truck EVs are in development, they have not yet entered the market in significant numbers. Thus, to date, EVs have had little impact on overall GHG emissions in the US. However, EV sales have grown rapidly in recent years, and there is the potential for continued exponential growth in the future. Second, even with accelerating growth in the next few years as more EV models enter the market, they will continue to have only a modest effect on transportation sector GHG emissions. This is because the passenger vehicle fleet takes several decades to turnover, and truck fleets take even longer. Therefore, most gasoline vehicles on the road today will still be on the road in 2025, which limits the increase in the share of the fleet that will be electric by that time. Even optimistic forecasts of new EV sales will have only a limited impact on overall GHG emissions. Even if 15% of new vehicle sales are EVs in 2025, 85% of sales will still be gasoline vehicles and those will remain on the road for many years. Third, in the longer term, as many EVs reach cost parity with gasoline vehicles some time after 2025, the authors expect sales volumes to increase significantly especially for passenger vehicles. However, for most larger vehicles, such as large passenger trucks and heavy-duty trucks, continuing technological progress will be essential for lowering costs to achieve competitiveness with vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel. By then trucks will contribute a larger share of GHG emissions than passenger vehicles, making them a major focus of efforts to decarbonize the transportation sector.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • © 2020 Benjamin Leard and Virginia McConnell, Resources for the Future.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Resources for the Future

    Washington, DC  United States 
  • Authors:
    • Leard, Benjamin
    • McConnell, Virginia
  • Publication Date: 2020-12


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 33p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01761731
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 20-24
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 22 2020 10:20AM