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Road transport electrification – Is timing everything? Implications of emissions analysis’ outcomes for climate and air policy

Targets for electrification of the road-transport sector are often set as the number of electric vehicles to be operating within the fleet by a certain date. Although there is recognition that timeframes for these transitions matter, research often focuses on total numbers and upstream power considerations. This causes uncertainty for policymakers regarding the impact of an aggressive, or deferred, incentive strategy to drive EV uptake rates at a given point in time. Using Ireland as a case study, EnvEcon (2021) explores road transport electrification scenarios with an emphasis on the timing of uptake rates, the focus on passenger or goods vehicles, and the outcomes for air and climate policy.

This methodology can support policymakers in assessing the outcomes of different EV penetration scenarios and outcomes in terms of GHGs emissions, air pollutants, and managing national progress toward international targets. It delivers a granular assessment of multiple vehicle electrification scenarios to inform the degree of urgency, scale of support, and the focus and timing of interventions appropriate for defined EV penetration ambitions. Results show that a faster electric vehicle uptake more than doubles the cumulative GHG emissions reduction by 2030. E-van and E-truck transitions are particularly important. Impacts on air pollution are modest due to the continued improvement of Euro standards. Broader vehicle choice, information campaigns, infrastructure investment, and fiscal policy incentives can all accelerate the rates of fleet change at a cost. Policy must therefore choose where, when, and how much to intervene with incentives, weighing the potential for positive emission outcomes against the level and timing of investment and supports to the market.

The full internationally peer reviewed methodology is available here.

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