Cars in Transition - An Assessment of Future Vehicle Technologies

University dissertation from Environmental and Energy Systems Studies

Abstract: The transport sector is facing serious challenges in meeting long-term sustainability criteria. Radical changes in the design of vehicles to attain competitive vehicles with substantially better environmental performance will probably constitute an important part in a future sustainable transport sector. The aim of the study described in this thesis is to assess the long-term options currently under discussion such as EVs, HEVs and FCEVs, and to analyse what role public policy has had in fostering their development. All the alternatives studied have a substantial potential to reduce the emission of pollutants and to reduce energy use. No single winner among the currently proposed alternatives can be seen from environmental or energy perspectives. The electric drivetrain is, however, a common denominator that will be an enabling technology for further development. In the EU, the USA and Japan, governments have supported the development of alternative powertrains. The emergence of the HEV as a commercial option is a result of industry strategy (mainly Toyota) facilitated by the sustained support of the Japanese Government. In the development process in Japan, market-creating initiatives have been as important for the development process as the targeted R&D efforts. Based on the understanding of technical change it is wise for governments to adopt a rather flexible policy and to focus on technologies that will solve a number of problems at once. This will increase the probability of support being sustained over a long time, which is necessary for successful development.

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