Analyzing Infrastructure and Supply Chain Requirements to Support the Transition to High Efficiency/Low GHG Emitting Light-Duty Vehicles

Focus Area

Climate Change


Air Quality, Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

Problem Statement
An ever-growing interest in the promise of high efficiency/low greenhouse gas-emittingvehicles has led to a variety of efforts to accelerate their commercial introduction. All the major original equipment manufacturers (OEM) are in various stages of developing fuel cell, electric and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) vehicles. Honda has already launched the Clarity, a 1st generation fuel cell vehicle. General Motors has announced that the Volt, a full electric vehicle, will be available by year end 2010. Toyota is planning a plug-in version of its popular Prius. Nissan and Ford are developing plug-in hybrids and battery electrics. Government efforts include the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) long-standing support for R&D and fleet deployment of fuel cells for light duty vehicles, the activities of the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CAFCP) to deploy fuel cell vehicles and infrastructure, and numerous state programs to assist in infrastructure deployment (some of which have obtained additional assistance from Recovery Act funds). The utility industry is also heavily involved, through the efforts of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and major power providers. The sum of current and planned private and public sector investment in electric, fuel cell and PHEV technologies is significant. To maximize the return on this investment a comprehensive assessment of pathways to full-scale deployment of these vehicles is essential.
Clearly, electric, biofuel hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), fuel cell and PHEV technologies have the potential to lessen dependence on foreign oil and reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. However, achieving this potential is no small task. Developing and deploying these vehicles will be a formidable undertaking. Early vehicles may achieve greater success in niche markets as opposed to the mass markets served by conventional vehicles. Coordinating infrastructure development with deployment is likely to be a particular challenge. Conventional highway fuels are distributed by means of what may be termed a petroleum model. Product terminals receive various grades of petroleum from refineries via tankers or pipelines and truck it to local refueling facilities. Depending on the feedstock and conversion process, hydrogen supply infrastructure would be very different, as would the recharging infrastructure for electric and plug-in hybrids. Questions like the availability of “spare” capacity to accommodate growing market demand and the evolution of supply infrastructure are not idle musings. Unless resolved at the outset, these issues are likely to pose formidable barriers to the transition to high efficiency, low green house gas (GHG) emitting vehicles.
This project will conduct a comprehensive assessment of pathways to the successful mass market commercialization of high efficiency/low greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles in North America by:
·      Reviewing previous related efforts from the NAS, CAFCP, the DOE, UC Davis, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, etc.;
·      Examining the potential for electric, biofuel HEV, fuel cell and PHEV technologies to penetrate niche and other markets including fleets, trucks, stationary applications (e.g., residential, portable and mobile power including forklifts and utility vehicles);
·      Evaluating options for the early introduction of electric, biofuel HEV, fuel cell and PHEV technologies in transportation applications including transit buses (Federal Transit Administration, CAFCP, European demo program) and niche markets;
·      Evaluating transition options — natural gas for gaseous fuel, hybrid electric for electric drive;
·      Evaluating the narrowing advantages of fuel cell vehicles against competing technologies —conventional gasoline and diesel, hybrid electric, and alternative fuels;
·      Evaluating infrastructure requirements for electric, biofuel HEV, fuel cell and PHEV technologies;
·      Describing prospective pathways with associated costs, benefits, and potential barriers.
The work will be divided into two phases, the first identifying components of one or more end-state infrastructures, and the second detailing potential transitions to those end-states.
Related Work
·         National Research Council, Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies: A Focus on Hydrogen, 2008. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
·         Lin, Z., C. Chen, Y. Fan, and J. Ogden, 2008. Optimized Pathways for Regional H2 Infrastructure Transitions: The Least-Cost Hydrogen for Southern California. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-08-02.
·         Greene, D., P. Leiby and D. Bowman,2007. Integrated Analysis of Market Transformation Scenarios with HyTrans, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Report ORNL/TM-2007/094, June. Accessed Oct. 2009 at
·         Stephan, C., et al., 2007. Modeling the Transition to a Hydrogen-Based Personal Transportation System, Frontiers in Transportation, Amsterdam, October 14-16.
Urgency/PriorityThe proposed research will contribute to the ongoing debate on the relative merits of electric, fuel cell and PHEV technologies and potential pathways to their widespread adoption.

Urgency and Payoff

The desired project outcome is a final report outlining alternative pathways for the introduction and market development of electric, fuel cell and PHEV technologies. Analysis will include an assessment of the role of niche markets and various policy instruments in achieving market success.
EffectivenessThis research will refine our understanding of pathways to achieve market success in deploying electric, fuel cell and PHEV technologies, and the role of various policy instruments in achieving that goal.

Suggested By

RNS. Sponsoring Committee: A0020T, Special Task Force on Climate Change and Energy Source Info: Special Task Force on Climate Change and Energy January 2010 Workshop