As you may know, extensive development in transportation sectors that has been playing a critical role in accelerating the fuel consumption, has caused climate change all around the world. The global community has been facing climate change as one of the most significant environmental challenges for decades. Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gases (GHG) are considered as the major contributing factor in climate change, which can cause unusual weather conditions such as increased drought, flooding and changing temperature pattern change. (1)
Although the environmentalists have taken giant steps for the achieving the zero anthropogenic emission as a natural goal, it may be soon to evaluate the results independently. In other words, not only a certain level of technological development but also the development of the public understanding and motivation for the need of investment in such technologies are required for implementing the zero emission concepts in a practical way (2). Zero Emission policy as a constructive program that has been designed to achieve the long-term emission reduction goals, can be considered as an appropriate method to be followed in order to diminish the countries’ concerns about air pollution and climate change. Therefore, I would this column to lead readers towards finding the solution for the probable questions related to this critical topic.
Today, although advanced technologies which includes engine modifications, post combustion treatment of exhaust gases, reformulated gasoline, alternative fuels, inspection and maintenance programs have been developed for mobile sources, the total emission for mobile sources are still growing for any pollutant. Carbon dioxide (CO2) as a primary greenhouse gas has not been reduced in concentration yet by modern pollution control technologies. One of the strategically vital step which can be taken in overcoming this challenge in order to move to the radical reduction of transportation emissions is referring to the concept of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). (2)
But, what is a zero emission vehicle? Under the ZEV regulation, there are three distinct vehicle designs, though to varying degrees, which are considered as “zero emission”. The first design relates to the Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) which is the combination of conventional gasoline-powered engine with a battery that can be recharged from the electrical grid. The second design relates to Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) that run entirely on electricity and can be recharged from the electricity grid, and the last one is Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) that run on electricity produced from a fuel cell using hydrogen gas.
The largest source of U.S greenhouse gas has been attributed to the Transportation sector in recent years. Due to the increased demand for travel based on population growth and economic, low fuel prices, and urban sprawl, transportation sector emissions experienced a significant growth about 21.5 percent from 1990 to 2016. (4) To change these connected series of events, the states have ordained vehicle GHG emissions standards, adopted goals for zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) deployment, which include both plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), and provided rebates for ZEVs and incentives for ZEV infrastructure, such as EV supply equipment (EVSE) and hydrogen fueling infrastructure. (3)
Among countries, a large gap has been observed between what countries have committed to, in terms of future emission reductions, and what would be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Full implementation of the necessary climate actions and policies in line with Paris agreement will unlock significant investment opportunities in varied aspects of clean technologies, green infrastructure and other net-zero emissions assets, products and services. However, some countries underestimate the importance of these policies implementation and assist in enlarging the gap between the goals of the Paris agreement and what happens in real. (5)
Also, the matter of paying attention to the concept of zero emission policies and zero emission vehicles can be considered as a strong market signal for the investors. In other words, their investment can result in not only significant profits for them but also noticeable results of decarbonization. Moreover, it is not unpredictable that we will observe a huge competition among different countries in deploying zero emission policies and zero emission vehicles to gain trillion dollars that can be achieved in these fields in near future. (5)
At last, it is essential to mention that the concentration on the transportation and energy usage, and the climate crisis mitigation strategies should not be neglected during the future plans. It is recommended that due to dramatic reduction in the costs of renewable electricity and batteries, the U.S., as a pioneer in this field all around the world, can now — during the 2020s — take giant steps toward achieving a net-zero emitting energy system at a cost lower than investing in reduced air pollution alone. This matter is not limited to US and is true for each country all around the world that allocate its effort in order to implement the issue of zero emission policies in their decisions.
1) Team, C.W.; Pachauri, R.K.; Meyer, L.A. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report; Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; IPCC: Geneva, Switzerland, 2014.
3) U.S. State Clean Vehicle Policies and Incentives, Last Updated January 2019
4) Climate Policy Database: http://climatepolicydatabase.org/