Decarbonizing Mobility: Thoughts on an Unresolved Challenge

Christoph Buchal, Hans-Werner Sinn

European Physical Journal Plus 134599 (2019).


Mobility and freight transportation are of worldwide importance. Presently they rely almost exclusively on fossil fuels. The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Protection calls for a drastic reduction of the associated CO2 emissions. As a prime choice for emission reduction of cars, presently battery-powered electrical vehicles (BEV) are widely favored. By law, the European Union uniformly classified all BEV as zero-CO2-emission vehicles, completely ignoring the source of the electrical energy and the very significant emissions due to battery fabrication. In order to expose this misleading regulation, we take a closer look at the CO2 footprint of a sedan BEV, if charged from the German grid, and compare this BEV to a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE), running on Diesel fuel. If a large BEV is equipped with a heavy, long-range battery and if this BEV is charged from the German grid, we find no CO2 reduction for a run of 200 000km, if compared to a modern Diesel engine. We offer some thoughts on a more detailed and proper analysis of future mobility concepts, the respective pros and cons, and on some of the alternative developments.

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