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1 Internal combustion engine, Hybrids and Electric Vehicles

The future powertrain for AVs will have a combination of electric, plug-in hybrid vehicles and ultra-low emission internal combustion engines. Within hybrid vehicles are different types/variations running on a combination of electric and internal combustion engines. These can be classified as:

  • Micro hybrid
  • Mild hybrid
  • Full hybrid
  • Plug-in hybrid

Lithium-ion batteries currently power electric vehicles. There are also efforts to produce fuel cell vehicles for the electric propulsion of AVs called hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy from fuel into electricity through an electrochemical reaction of hydrogen-containing fuel. Electric vehicles have far fewer moving engine parts than a vehicle powered by internal combustion. This would result in a need to reshape the supply chain of the automotive industry.

According to the following EU website electric vehicle 'tank-to-wheels' efficiency is a factor of about 3 higher than internal combustion engine vehicles. Electric vehicles emit no tailpipe CO2 or other pollutants such as NOx, NMHC and PM at the point of use. Electric vehicles provide quiet and smooth operation and consequently create less noise and vibration.

2 The economic arguments

Long-distance heavy-duty vehicles would need more power to pull the weight of trucks. According to consultants Ricardo, low-carbon fuel vehicles will be suitable. Hybrid vehicles could be used as commercial and medium-duty vehicles. Battery/electric powered vehicles could be used for short distances or as light-duty vehicles.
An economic analysis comparing the use of electric vs internal combustion engine appears in a report by Arthur D Little. For a 2015 compact passenger vehicle, the total cost of ownership over a 20year vehicle lifetime is $68,492 for the sample battery-operated electric vehicle (BEV) model, versus $47,676 for an equivalent internal combustion electric vehicle (ICEV). This equates to a 44% cost advantage for the ICEV, excluding any government subsidies or incentives. For a 2015 mid-size passenger vehicle, the total cost to own a BEV is $85,854, versus $53,649 for the ICEV – a 60% cost advantage for the ICEV. The cost differential between BEVs and ICEVs will narrow for new vehicles in 2025.

3 Emissions at point of use or elsewhere

(See also Environment)

For a 2015 compact passenger vehicle, the sample battery electric vehicle model produces 47,589 kg of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2-equivalents) over a full vehicle lifetime. The equivalent internal combustion electric vehicle produces 61,844 kg of greenhouse gas emissions – a 23% advantage in global warming potential for the BEV. For the 2015 mid-size passenger vehicle, the BEV produces 55,615 kg of CO2 -equivalents, whereas the ICEV produces 68, 697 kg of CO2. This equates to a 19% advantage in global warming potential for the BEV. BEVs and ICEVs will both produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions in 2025, but the balance will still favour battery-operated EVs.

4 Legislation and targets

(See also Policies & regulation)

According to the EU, by 2021 the fleet average to be achieved by all new cars is 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre. This is phased in from 2020 and means a fuel consumption of around 4.1l/100 km of petrol or 3.6l/100 km of diesel. The 2015 and 2021 targets represent reductions of 18% and 40% respectively, compared with the 2007 fleet average of 158.7g/km.

Since a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transport sector, reaching these targets will have a powerful impact and create a ripple effect, since many countries pattern their regulations on the European standards. CO2 standards for new vehicles in the post-2020 timeline are currently under preparation by the European Commission. The UK and French governments have both agreed to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2040.