Assessment of electrical vehicles as a successful driver for reducing CO2 emissions in China

Jana Hofmann, Dabo Guan, Konstantinos Chalvatzis, Hong Huo

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This paper analyses the impacts of the gasoline vehicle replacement programme with EVs at different penetration rates on petroleum and electricity sectors and their CO2 emissions. The study utilises a top-down- type Environmental Input-Output (EI-O) model. Our results show that the replacement of gasoline cars with EVs causes greater impacts on total gasoline production than on total electricity generation. For example, at 5%, 20%, 50%, 70% and 100% gasoline vehicle replacement with EVs, the total gasoline production decreases by 1.66%, 6.65%, 16.62%, 23.27% and 33.24% in policy scenario 1, while the total electricity production only increases by 0.71%, 2.82%, 7.05%, 9.87% and 14.10%. Our study confirms that the gasoline vehicle replacement with EVs, powered by 80% coal, has no effect on overall emissions. The CO2 emissions reduction in the petroleum sector is offset by the increase in CO2 emissions in the electricity sector, leaving the national CO 2 emissions unchanged. By decarbonising the electricity sector, i.e. using 30% less coal in electricity generation mix, the total CO2 emissions will be reduced by 28% (from 10,953 to 7,870 Mt CO 2 ) on the national level. The gasoline vehicle replacement programme with EVs, powered by 50% coal-based electricity, helps reduce CO2 emissions in petroleum sector and contributes zero or a very small proportion of additional CO2 emissions to the electricity sector (policy scenario 2 and 3). We argue that EVs can contribute to a reduction of petroleum dependence, air quality improvement and CO2 emission reduction only when their introduction is accompanied by aggressive electricity sector decarbonisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)995–1003
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Energy
Early online date29 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2016


  • Electric vehicles
  • Vehicle replacement
  • Input–output modelling
  • Electricity generation mix
  • CO2 emissions
  • China

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