Europe must sell its last internal combustion engine car during the early 2030s if it is to decarbonise its transport by 2050 and achieve the goal of the Paris agreement, a new report has found.
The EU can most easily achieve a zero-emissions fleet by switching to battery-electric and hydrogen cars, the analysis by green transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) shows.
Higher fuel taxes and road charges, coupled with car-sharing and shifting motorists to other forms of transport, could be deployed to reduce the number of cars, tackle congestion and make cities more livable. But even an ambitious package of demand reduction measures will only deliver, at most, a 28% reduction in emissions in 2050. The heavy lifting in terms of emissions reductions requires a shift to zero-emission vehicles by 2035 at the very latest. Any remaining combustion engine cars still on the road in 2050 will need to be banned.
Thomas Earl, data analyst at T&E, said: “Shifting people from cars onto shared transport and onto bikes is an important part of the equation, but to achieve zero carbon personal mobility in 2050 requires zero emission cars. Both electric and hydrogen cars can get us to zero but hydrogen is much less efficient.”
The analysis concludes it will be nearly impossible to produce sufficient low-carbon liquid fuels cost-effectively to power all Europe’s cars. Advanced biofuels are likely to supply just 3.5% of transport fuels in 2030 and growth after this will be limited by available land and feedstock. Synthetic fuels will be expensive and inefficient, requiring huge quantities of clean electricity – equivalent to almost 70% of today’s total European electricity production – to power all cars in 2050. In contrast, a hydrogen car fleet would require 38%, a battery-electric fleet just 15%. There will also not be nearly enough biomethane available to be an option for cars, while biomethane will also be required to replace fossil gas for industry and heating.
The current proposals for car CO2 reductions in 2025 and 2030 are far below the 60% needed to be on track to achieve the Paris climate goals, the report finds. Around a third of new cars sold will need to be plug-ins to achieve the EU’s 2030 car CO2 target but, by 2035, all new cars will need to be zero emissions if we are to decarbonise the fleet.
Thomas Earl concluded: “If we want to avoid dangerous climate change we need to shift the market for electric cars much faster than the proposed regulations. Through reform of vehicle and fuel taxes, or the introduction of zero emission zones, governments have the tools to do this. The question is whether they will choose to use them. It is also imperative that the European Commission’s upcoming decarbonisation strategy takes into account the carbon budgets of each sector to ensure we have adequate policy measures not to exceed them.”
The EU must set out in its 2050 Decarbonisation Strategy, to be published on 28 November, how it will clean up transport. The sector is Europe’s biggest source of carbon emissions, contributing 27% to the EU’s total GHG emissions, with cars representing 44% of these, according to the EEA. It is also the only sector in which emissions have grown since 1990, driving an increase in the EU’s overall emissions in 2017. T&E will present its overall strategy to decarbonise transport at an event in Brussels on 27 November. If you wish to attend, please register here.