Near-Term Potential of Biofuels, Electrofuels, and Battery Electric Vehicles in Decarbonizing Road Transport

Ilkka Hannula, David M. Reiner

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    57 Citations (Scopus)


    We develop a framework for comparing carbon-neutral synthetic fuels (CNSFs) with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) as alternatives to reducing CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles. CNSFs can be divided into fuels produced from biomass via gasification and electrofuels produced from CO2 and water using electricity. We develop CNSF cost estimates for first-of-a-kind plants operating at commercial scale. Although already competitive over short distances, we find that longer-range BEVs are likely to remain more expensive than CNSFs even if low (∼$125/kWh) battery costs are achieved, and all three options would require carbon prices in excess of $130/tCO2 or oil prices in excess of $100/bbl to become commercially viable relative to petroleum. The viability of electrofuels ultimately depends on access to low-cost, ultra-low-carbon power systems or sources of zero-carbon electricity with high annual availability. Priorities should include deploying a portfolio of CNSF technologies to help appraise decarbonization pathways, economies of scale, and learning by doing.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2390-2402
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2019
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    I.H. acknowledges funding from the Fortum Foundation and Tekes —the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation for the Neo-Carbon Energy (project 40101/14), which helped support his visit to Cambridge, where the study was originally conceptualized, in 2015/16.


    • battery electric vehicles
    • carbon-neutral synthetic fuels
    • electrofuels
    • low-carbon transport alternatives
    • synthetic biofuels


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