How road transport can achieve its net-zero emissions goal by 2050

Last internal combustion engine vehicle needs to be sold by 2038 to achieve target, a new BloombergNEF study shows

The rise in electric vehicle use is already displacing about 1.5 million barrels of oil demand per day, according to BloombergNEF estimates. AFP
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Sales of passenger electric vehicles are set to accelerate in the next few years, paving the way for the transport sector to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, a new report has said. However, it said that the clock is ticking on this goal.

While the adoption of EVs is gaining significant traction on the back of more awareness on sustainability, policymakers need to help create a more inclusive industry, BloombergNEF (BNEF) said in its new Long-Term Vehicle Outlook study.

To become a net-zero global fleet by 2050, zero-emission vehicles must account for 61 per cent of global new passenger vehicle sales by 2030 and 93 per cent by 2035, the report said. The last internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle of any segment must be sold by 2038, it added.

“The window to stay on track for net-zero road transport emissions by 2050 is still open, but only just barely," said Aleksandra O’Donovan, head of electric vehicles at BNEF. "A big push is needed from governments, auto makers, part suppliers and charging infrastructure providers in the years ahead."

EV sales will grow more than threefold to 21 million by 2025 from last year. This would put the number of EVs on roads at 77 million in 2025 and 229 million by 2030, the report said.

The global EV market continues to grow as governments and society shift towards energy conservation. Transport is one of the biggest culprits in carbon emissions.

EV sales continued to rise this year amid “sustained policy support” from governments, as they focus on cutting emissions to reach net-zero targets, the International Energy Agency said last month.

Sales rose 75 per cent in the first quarter of this year to 2 million after breaking a record last year with total sales of 6.6 million, up 100 per cent from the previous year, with the growth driven by China, Europe and the US, according to the Paris-based agency.

BNEF detailed two possibilities for the uptake of electric transport to 2050. The first — economic transition scenario — assumes no new policies and regulations are enacted, and the market is primarily driven by techno-economic trends and market forces.

The second — net-zero scenario — examines the potential route to net-zero emissions. This primarily looks at economics as the deciding factor for which technologies for drivetrain — the group of components that deliver power to a drive wheel — are introduced to hit the 2050 target.

Certain segments, such as buses and two- and three-wheelers, are close to being on track for net zero. However, more action is needed elsewhere, especially in medium and heavy commercial vehicles.

"There are very positive signs that the market is moving in the right direction, but more action is needed — especially when it comes to heavy trucks," said Colin McKerracher, head of the advanced transport team at BNEF and lead author of the report.

"Action also needs to focus on emerging markets, which need financial support to help enable and accelerate the transition to electric mobility of all types.”

The rise in EV use is already displacing about 1.5 million barrels of oil demand per day, BNEF said, with most coming from electric two- and three-wheelers in Asia. Rising passenger EV sales will push this to 2.5 million barrels per day by 2025, it added.

Overall, oil demand from road transport is now set to peak by 2027, as electrification spreads to all other areas of road transport beyond passenger cars, BNEF said. Sales of ICE vehicles peaked in 2017 and it is expected that the global fleet of ICE passenger vehicles will start to decline in 2024, it added.

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Updated: June 02, 2022, 7:33 AM