imgTranElecIcon Transport – Electrification

Increase or decrease purchases of new electric cars, trucks, buses, trains, and ships. 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.

Slider Settings

The variable being changed is the annual growth rate of electricity used in new transport capital such as vehicles, trains, and ships.

discouraged status quo incentivized highly incentivized
Annual rate -3% to -1% -1% to +1% +1% to +3% +3% to +5%

Key Dynamics

  • As you increase Transport Electrification, coal and gas lines go up slightly. There is more coal and more gas because that is currently where we get most of our electricity. There are two main forces that effect the impact of transport electrification on future temperature:
    • Overall “well-to-wheel” efficiency is greater for electrified transport than for internal combustion engines – in general, less energy is used to power transport with electricity than oil. This reduces emissions and temperature.
    • Oil (red line) goes down as we electrify transport in the “Sources of Primary Energy” graph. It is compensated for by the increased electrical demand powered by coal and natural gas (in the absence of a carbon price or other taxes).

Big Message

  • Switching to electric modes of transport makes the biggest impact for the climate when electrical energy sources are low carbon.
  • Climate impacts are better because of the efficiency of electric cars, but might be worse because of where we get our energy. If the world is dependent on coal and natural gas to for electric power, the net effect of electrification is essentially no change in emissions and temperature.

Model Structure

Unlike the inputs for energy sources, which change the financial attractiveness to drive future behavior, this input directly forces growth of electrification up toward a maximum percentage.

Potential Co-Benefits of Encouraging

  • Improved air quality at the source 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 wreak havoc on precious ecosystems and threaten the well-being of communities at the mining sites.
  • Electric charging station locations may not be accessible or the electric battery range may be insufficient for some situations.