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Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

Information on the project

Electric mobility concepts and their significance for the economy, society and the environment

Thematic area: Transport and traffic
Analytical approach: Innovation report
Topic initiative: Several commitees
Status: completed
Duration: 2010 till 2012

Background and central aspects of the topic

Over the last few years, electric mobility has once again been the subject of lively discussions due to new, more powerful rechargeable batteries and the high volatility on the oil markets. Political objectives such as reducing the dependency on oil, more efficient energy transformation, significant CO2 reductions and lowering local emissions from transport are important drivers of electric mobility. Electric mobility is therefore a prominent topic in environmental, economic and social terms.

A series of challenges still have to be solved before widespread market introduction can take place. The lithium-ion battery is deemed to be the key technology today. However, this still has to be substantially improved with regard to costs, energy density, weight, cycle and calendar life, and speed of charging. Introducing electric vehicles also requires the construction of a charging infrastructure. Suitable business models have to be developed for electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure which are heavily dependent on the technologically best realizable drive technologies. For electric mobility services to be successfully diffused and used, it is imperative that these are aligned to their users and take their needs and preferences into account.

Policy support can make a decisive contribution to solving these challenges. Decisions about targets, strategies and measures to support technologies have to consider different dimensions. On the one hand, electric mobility has to be economically efficient when compared to oil-based combustion vehicles and other alternative fuel and drive concepts from both the perspective of society as a whole as well as that of individuals. In addition, it also has to offer advantages in terms of energy efficiency, climate protection and other environmental issues. Finally, when promoting and diffusing electric mobility, the requirements of the different social groups need to be properly taken into account and unacceptable restrictions avoided.

Electric mobility is already being promoted by the German government in numerous research programmes and pilot projects. These support programmes and projects each tackle different questions and regard different applications and aspects of electric mobility. So far, there has been no comprehensive compilation of the currently available results. Because of the complexity of the topic, however, such an overall picture is essential for a wide-ranging discussion and evaluation of electric mobility and for any decision about political objectives and measures in this context.

Objectives and approach

In view of this field’s high level of complexity, the wide variety of projects on very different relevant topics in the context of electric mobility and the complex questions which arise with respect to political strategies and decisions, one objective of the proposed innovation report is to comprehensively process and summarize the current state of research and development and to supplement this where necessary. Based on this, an overall analysis and discussion of those aspects should then take place which are of key importance for political decisions on strategies and measures, specifically the ecological, economic and social aspects of integrating electric mobility into our systems of transport. Conclusions and recom-mendations will be derived for the further development and promotion of electric mobility in Germany.

The following steps are planned:

The first part should establish the foundations for a comprehensive evaluation of electric mobility and thus provide the basis for well-informed political decisions. This starts with an extensive description and analysis of the technologies and applications regarded, including their development potentials and both German and international technology activities. The focus here will be on vehicles with traction batteries (plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles). Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles are included for comparison. Promising market penetration scenarios and transport concepts for integrating electric mobility into today’s transport systems are described and analyzed. The impacts of electric mobility on local authorities and cities are considered as is their role in introducing electric mobility. Finally, energy scenarios for the improved integration of fluctuating renewable energy sources due to the use of electric mobility are described and analyzed.

A comprehensive evaluation of the described technologies, applications and development scenarios based on ecological, economic and social aspects is done in the second part of the project. The ecological sustainability evaluation considers criteria such as greenhouse gases, air pollutants and noise over the life-cycle of batteries and vehicles as well as critical raw materials. The assessment of the economic sustainability incorporates an analysis of the competitive situation between electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles including the options for developing a charging infrastructure. In addition, the opportunities and risks of shifts in the automotive value added chains and their impacts on Germany as an automobile producing country are identified as well as an analysis made of the effects of electric mobility on employment. The evaluation of the social sustainability covers the analysis of road users’ acceptance of electric mobility as well as expected impacts on their mobility behavior.

In the third part, in a synthesis, an overall assessment of electric mobility and its potentials is undertaken and conclusions are drawn. Different support strategies and measures are described and critically assessed. Finally, conclusions and recommendations are derived for the further development and support of electric mobility in Germany.

The results will be summarized in a final report (Innovation Report).