Near-Term Potential of Biofuels, Electrofuels, and Battery Electric Vehicles in Decarbonizing Road Transport
We develop a framework for comparing carbon-neutral synthetic fuels (CNSFs)
with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) as alternatives to reducing CO2 emissions
from light-duty vehicles. CNSFs can be divided into fuels produced from
biomass via gasification and electrofuels produced from CO2 and water using
electricity. We develop CNSF cost estimates for first-of-a-kind plants operating
at commercial scale. Although already competitive over short distances, we find
that longer-range BEVs are likely to remain more expensive than CNSFs even if
low ($125/kWh) battery costs are achieved, and all three options would
require carbon prices in excess of $130/tCO2 or oil prices in excess of
$100/bbl to become commercially viable relative to petroleum. The viability
of electrofuels ultimately depends on access to low-cost, ultra-low-carbon power
systems or sources of zero-carbon electricity with high annual availability.
Priorities should include deploying a portfolio of CNSF technologies to help
appraise decarbonization pathways, economies of scale, and learning by doing.
Ilkka Hannula, David M. Reiner