imgTranElecIcon Transport – Electrification

Increase purchases of new electric cars, trucks, buses, trains, and possibly even ships and airplanes. Using electric motors for transport helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution if the electricity is from low-carbon sources like solar and wind.


  • Investments into electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

  • Research and development into the technologies for vehicles, batteries, and charging.

  • Corporate commitments to sales of electric vehicles.

  • Programs to offer rebates and incentives to electric car purchases.

Big Message

  • If the world is dependent on coal and natural gas for electric power, the net effect of electrification is only a slight change in emissions and temperature.

  • Switching to electric modes of transport makes the biggest impact for the climate when electrical energy sources are low-carbon.

Key Dynamics

  • As you increase Transport Electrification, there are two main forces that affect future temperature:

    • Overall efficiency is greater for electrified transport than for internal combustion engines – in general, less fuel is used to power transport with electricity than oil.

    • Oil, in the “Global Sources of Primary Energy” graph, goes down as we electrify transport. At the same time, primary energy demand for coal, renewables, and to a more limited extent, natural gas, all increase to power the rise in electrical demand.

Potential Co-Benefits of Encouraging Electrification

  • Improved air quality from fewer internal combustion engines increases healthcare savings and worker productivity.

  • Jobs are created in the manufacturing and sales of electric batteries and engines.

Equity Considerations

  • Although costs are coming down, electric vehicles may not be affordable or available to everyone.

  • Mining of lithium and copper, two necessary ingredients for the batteries used in electric vehicles, can be damaging to precious ecosystems and threaten the well-being of communities near mining sites. 1

  • Electric charging station locations may not be accessible or the electric battery range may be insufficient for some situations.

Slider Settings

The main Transport Electrification slider adds a policy mandating the minimum percentage of new road and rail transport (cars, trucks, buses, and trains) that must be powered by electricity rather than fuels.

Note that other actions can contribute to electrification and can result in higher levels of electrification than what the slider target is set to.

With the “Electrification of new transport – air and water” slider in the advanced settings you can set the percentage of new electric airplanes, ships, boats, etc. that use air or water to get around. Currently, electric airplanes and long-range electric ships are only available as prototypes and face significant technological challenges due to the limitations of energy storage, so the default assumption is that they do not scale up. If the slider is moved, then the percentage of electrification action would begin in 2030 and take 70 years to reach the specified percentage.

status quo


highly incentivized

Minimum percentage of new transport

0% to 9%

10% to 49%

50% to 100%

Model Structure

This input directly forces growth of electrification up to a minimum percentage, unlike the inputs for energy sources, which change the financial attractiveness to drive future behavior.

This input affects climate outcomes through two pathways:

  1. Changing energy demand. The efficiency for electrified energy use is greater than for the direct burning of coal, oil, and gas.

  2. Changing fuel mix. Increased electrification decreases use of oil but then increases use of coal, natural gas, and renewables in electricity generation.

Case Studies

United States: Increasing fuel economy standards in the United States could save consumers tens of billions of dollars per year, reduce gas consumption by tens of billions of gallons per year, and create over 300,000 jobs by 2030 while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tons per year. 2

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Lombrana, L. M. (2019, June 11). Saving the Planet With Electric Cars Means Strangling This Desert. Bloomberg Green.


Bezdek, R. H., & Wendling, R. M. (2005). Potential long-term impacts of changes in US vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Energy Policy, 33(3), 407–419.