2050 Carbon reduction goals open opportunities for hybrid and battery electric vehicles

The EU and G8 leaders agreed in 2009 to achieve an 80% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 if atmospheric CO2 is to stabilise at 450 parts per million, and if global warming stays under the safe level of 2°C. However, securing the overall 80% decarbonisation goal within the next 4 decades may need 95% decarbonisation of the road transport sector, and objective which will require new efficient and reliable propulsion systems.

A portfolio of advanced power-trains like fuel-cell-electric (FCEV), plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) and battery-electric (BEV) vehicles would help secure this goal, says a new study commissioned and prepared by a coalition of some 30 of the largest global car manufacturers, oil and gas companies, utilities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the European Commission and governmental and clean energy organisations.

The European Commission tables its strategy on clean and efficient vehicles to move on from short-term recovery measures to a medium-term orientation that strengthens the competitiveness of the European automotive industry by linking it to clean technologies. The strategy also contributes to the Europe 2020 objectives of smart and sustainable growth.

Entitled 'A portfolio of power-trains for Europe: a fact-based analysis. The role of battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell electric vehicles', the report is part of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative (FCH JTI), which targets the accelerated development and commercialisation of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies in Europe. According to the experts, this portfolio draws attention to the complementary nature of these technologies. Each technology offers a solution for different environments and driving behaviours.

The study found that electric drive cars will play a critical role in helping us obtain a greener future; not only can they effectively shrink CO2 but they can help lower local emissions. A full portfolio of power-trains will ensure that consumers' needs are met. In line with that, environment and refuelling infrastructures are required if Europeans are to achieve long-term sustainability of personal mobility.

Both the European and global markets can expect to sustain an increase in the number of passenger cars between now and 2050, with figures jumping to 273 million in Europe and to 2.5 billion worldwide. Improvements to the conventional internal combustion engine or alternative fuels are not enough. Also weighing on the minds of many is the fact that people are unsure of whether sustainably generated biofuels will be available for passenger cars. Other sectors, including aviation, marine and heavy industry, are eyeing such biofuels for their own use.

Europeans must develop a range of technologies if their long-term sustainability of mobility is to be secured, the experts said. Experts which also included representatives from multinational as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), represented by the European Industry Grouping for the FCH JTI, as well as universities and research institutes.