Electrification is Not a Panacea

Commentary / 1st Quarter 2023

Electrification is Not a Panacea

March 21, 2023

One of the solutions that is being mainstreamed to decarbonise the transportation sector is to electrify vehicles. It is conducted in line with phasing out fossil fuels and using alternative sources of energy for the power grid.

Different modes of transportation have been adopting electrification at varying paces.20 Rail has been widely electrified across Asia, followed by road-based vehicles like buses, cars and motorcycles or e-bikes, with such vehicles being mainstreamed in recent years through incentives. Electrification for waterborne transport is currently limited to small ships and short-distance trips, while large vessels use biofuels or hydrogen to reduce carbon emissions. Aviation in general is not expected to electrify within the next couple of decades.

Many analysts have criticised how industry stakeholders are quick to jump at the potential of investment in e-vehicles, obfuscating its risks.

Electrification still risks transferring one form of socioenvironmental hazard (pollution) to another (extraction of precious minerals for batteries21); does not account for the overall embodied energy in its manufacturing and distribution; does not solve pertinent issues like congestion; and its overall climate impact is contingent upon how ‘clean’ the power grid is. While it is important to innovate and upgrade transportation technologies, it is only one aspect of the larger goal to reduce emissions.

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Related story:

Climate Feature: Climate Targets and the Transportation Sector

Read more stories from FuturArc 1Q 2023: Mobility & Transport!


20 Electrification of the Transport System (2017), Directorate-General for Research and Innovation: Smart, Green and Integrated Transport, European Union

21 https://www.euronews.com/next/2022/09/19/why-techcompanies-are-wrong-to-think-electric-cars-are-asolution-to-climate-change

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