All energy transition scenarios agree that one of the biggest challenges is the transport sector, as it accounts for a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and they are growing. Worse, the number of cars on the roads is rising exponentially. According to Morgan Stanley Research, economic growth in developing countries could double the number of passenger cars from one to two billion in just a few decades. In spite of India’s Paris climate pledge to reduce its carbon intensity by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, its CO2 emissions grew by 4.6 percent last year. In 2017, vehicle sales hit a record four million units in India, the largest car market in Asia Pacific. It’s a trend confirmed by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which foresees a doubling of the number of cars globally by 2030.
Can electrification solve the problem? The number of electric vehicles and hybrids sold sees double-digit growth every year. According to the latest edition of the IEA's Global Electric Vehicles Outlook, the number of electric and plug-in hybrids on the world’s roads exceeded three million in 2017, a 54 percent increase compared with 2016. Based on current and planned policies, the IEA scenarios foresee 125 million units on the road by 2030, up to 220 million if policy ambitions rise. But it’s not enough - or fast enough - to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The European electricity association Eurelectric recently presented a new study that suggests virtually all cars would need to be electric in 2050 for a 95 percent E.U.-wide emissions reduction target. This would not only require big changes in driving habits, such as the widespread adoption of shared mobility and the development of autonomous driving, but also a drastic halving of the size of today's total vehicle fleet.
“You have to decarbonize the existing fleet,” says Nour Amrani, Public Affairs Senior Manager at Novozymes. So electrification is necessary but not sufficient or fast enough to decarbonize the transport sector. “It’s the most difficult of all sectors because you have to decarbonize vehicles, fuels and infrastructure at the same time,” sums up Valérie Corre, Director for E.U. Public Affairs ethanol/alcohol at Tereos, a French sugar producer. Liquid fuels will have a big role to play.