FIGURE 5.41 Distribution of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market share in 2050: Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Policy Case.


Large and important reductions in petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved by increasing the fuel economy of light-duty vehicles in line with the CAFE standards for 2025 and embodied in the RFS2 (25-30 percent by 2030 and 30-40 percent by 2050). Even greater reductions will be possible if advances in vehicle and fuel technologies beyond those required to meet the 2025 CAFE standards and the RFS2 standards can be realized.

Achieving the 2030 and 2050 goals for reduction of oil use and greenhouse gas emissions will require a mix of strong public policies, market forces that encourage greater energy efficiency, and continued improvements in vehicle and fuels technologies. As the comparison of VISION and LAVE-Trans model estimates illustrates, reaching the goals is likely to be more difficult than previous “what if” analyses have concluded due to economic feedback effects and competition among technologies and fuels. These feedback effects include increased vehicle use with reduced energy costs, increased new-vehicle demand with improved technology, and competition for market share among advanced technologies. They are also almost certain to include lower petroleum prices as a consequence of reduced petroleum demand, although no attempt has been made to model that in these analyses. These feedback effects are much smaller in magnitude than the direct effects of energy efficiency improvement and displacement of petroleum with alternative energy sources; still, they increase the difficulty of achieving the 2050 goals.

Achieving a 40 percent reduction in petroleum use over 2005 levels by 2030 is a more realistic and achievable goal than a 50 percent reduction. Whether or not this level of reduction would be sufficient to achieve the objective of solving the nation’s oil dependence problem given expected increases in domestic petroleum supply should be carefully evaluated.

Even if the nation should fall short of the 2050 goals, there are likely to be environmental, economic, and national security benefits resulting from the reductions that are achieved. The committee’s modeling suggests that reductions in petroleum use on the order of 70 to 90 percent are possible given very strong policies and continued advances in the key technologies: electric-drive vehicles (hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery, and fuel cell) and drop-in biofuels. In the committee’s judgment, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on the order of 60 to 80 percent are possible but will require effective and adaptive policies over time as well as continued advances in the technologies described in Chapters 2 and 3.

Including the social costs of GHG emissions and petroleum dependence in the cost of fuels (e.g., via a carbon tax) provides important signals to the market that will promote technological development and behavioral changes. Yet these pricing strategies alone are likely to be insufficient to induce a major transition to alternative, net-low-carbon vehicle technologies and/or energy sources. Additional strong, temporary policies may be required to break the lock-in of conventional technology and overcome the market barriers to alternative vehicles and fuels.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement