Low Carbon Strategy of China’s Transport Electrification Toward 2030

China’s carbon-intensive power system restricts the benefits brought about by transport electrification. With the decline of coal and the increase of renewable power in the energy mix, carbon reduction through the development of electric vehicles will become increasingly apparent. China should now carry out a transport electrification strategy to feed in the low carbon development pathway in the long run.

Proportion of Transport Sector’s Carbon Emissions will Continue to Increase

The major energy consuming sectors in China are under pressure to control the growth rate of carbon emissions, with the transport sector confronted with probably the biggest challenge of carbon emissions reduction in the long term. This is due to the fact that its energy source is still dominated by oil.

Carbon emissions in the transport sector reached 620 million tons in 2011, accounting for 6% of China’s total carbon emissions[1], and increased to 700 million tons in 2012. According to a study from GCEC, total carbon emissions in China will reach 13.8 billion tons by 2030[2], increasing from 10.7 billion tons in 2012. To achieve the global 2℃ increase goal within this century, we assume  global carbon emissions in 2030 will reach 35 billion tons as a reference value[3], in which China will account for nearly 40%. Whether China can reach its peak at a lower level of carbon emissions around 2030 not only affects the goal to control global temperatures, but also affects the room left for the porest countries to increase their carbon emissions.

Here we conservatively assume that the proportion of China’s carbon emission will reach 35% of the global total by 2030, namely 12.25 billion tons. By then, if we calculate the carbon emissions of the transport sector at the growth rate of 3% conservatively as well, the number will be close to 1.2 billion tons by 2030, which accounts for nearly 10% of China’s total carbon emission.

Carbon Emission Reduction of Electric Vehicles by 2030

2015 2020 2030(A) 2030(B)
Annual emission reduction of per electric vehicle (ton CO2)  1.6  1.3   0.8   0.8
Number of electric vehicles (thousand)  300  5,000  15,000  60,000
Carbon emission reduction (thousand tons CO2)  470  6,470  12,000  48,000

Note: The electric vehicles here refer to light passenger cars. The number of electric vehicles in 2030 is estimated through 2020 government target. We only consider direct emission from fuel usage and power grid usage.


Road Transportation Electrification:Foundation for Carbon Emissions Reduction in the Future

Among the carbon emission control initiatives, we believe that it is one of the most important strategies to promote the development of road transportation electrifi cation, which will bring a win-win situation. Continuing the development of a low-carbon power system will enhance the carbon reduction effect of transport electrification. Currently, gasoline car with an electric vehicle on average can help reduce carbon emissions by about 1.6 tons annually[4]. While power grid emissions will decrease dramatically in the future, the carbon emission effi ciency of gasoline vehicles will increase simultaneously. By 2020, single electric vehicle can help reduce carbon emission by 1.3 tons compared to gasoline car. In 2030, this number will further be reduced to 0.8 ton.

If the number of electric vehicles reaches 15 million by 2030,  carbon emissions reduction will be 12 million tons, equaling to 1.3% of the entire road transportation carbon emissions, which is 900 million tons. If the number reaches 60 million, which equals to 24% of car ownership, electric vehicles can reduce 48 million tons of carbon emissions. In recent years, the annual increase of passenger cars in China has been far greater than 10 million, thus there is great potential for electric vehicle growth. It is possible for electric vehicles to increase from 500,000 to more than 60 million within 15 years.


Author:Zhao Ang  and Lin Jiaqiao



[1]Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) 2.0. [online] Available at: http://cait2.wri.org World Resources Institute (WRI), 2014, Access: 2015.11.30.
[2] China and the New Climate Economy. Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (GCEC). Beijing: Tsinghua University.
[3] China’s “New Normal”: structural change, better growth, and peak emissions Fergus Green and Nicholas Stern.
[4]Here we include only electric vehicles as a reference, not hybrid. Suppose annual travel of a car is 15000km, the current emission factor of light passenger gasoline car is 180g/km. The number will reduce to 150g/km in 2020 and 90g/km in 2030. The power consumption per kilometer of electric vehicles is 0.1 kWh. Thus if we take 2014 national average value of 0.75 tCO2/MWh as reference, the current carbon emission factor of electric vehicles is 75 g/km. Here we simply assume that compared to current value, power grid emission factor will reduce 15% by 2020 and 50% by 2030.

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