Electric vehicles, european mobility and industrial leadership at stake

Emilie Magdalinski and Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, research fellow at the Jacques Delors Institute, analyse the question of electric mobility and how to articulate several solutions toward a successful energy transition.

While European elections are coming, climate change is a rising topic of concern for many Europeans. A quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe comes from transport while to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement, Europe should become a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, thus needing to bring to near-zero the emissions of its transport system. The European Union (EU) has been actively creating the framework to make our mobility cleaner but still faces many challenges to put these regulations into acts and to achieve a transition that is socially fair.
The soon-to-be elected EU policy-makers, i.e. new Members of the European Parliament, and newly elected Commissioners will make key decisions to shape this new mobility landscape. Through their vote on May 26th, EU citizens have the opportunity to send them a clear message.
To realise a transition from today’s dirty mobility system to tomorrow’s clean mobility system, there is no silver bullet, but there is the opportunity to articulate several solutions. Future mobility needs to be based on energy-efficient and low-emission modes that rely on clean energy. The solution will not be only technological. The way we think mobility needs to change towards a more sustainable approach, starting with reducing the need to move. A comprehensive solution can build on several dimensions: reduction and optimisation of our mobility needs, digitalisation, shared economy and behavioural changes.
One of the solutions emerging worldwide is electrification. Nonetheless, many questions remain over the CO2 emissions of electric vehicles (EV) compared to diesel and gasoline vehicles, the charging infrastructure, the cost of owning and using an electric car, the environmental impact of EV production (especially the battery), and the impact of this transformation on the European car industry and its millions of jobs.
This brief focuses on the question of electric mobility and concludes that electric vehicles alone will not make our mobility clean, but they are a key part of the solution.