Kyushu University researchers have discovered that Japan’s current plan to transition to electric and hybrid vehicles by 2035 may not be sufficient to effectively combat the country’s CO2 emissions and achieve its decarbonization targets. The study suggests that additional measures, such as increasing clean energy production, decarbonizing the manufacturing process, and extending the lifespan of vehicles, are necessary to address the climate crisis effectively.
Many countries worldwide have implemented policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2, and Japan is no exception. One such policy is the ban on the sale of new fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Japan aims to cease the sale of new gasoline vehicles by 2035 and exclusively promote electric vehicles (EVs), hybrid vehicles (HVs), and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) in their place.
Although this measure is a step in the right direction, Professor Shigemi Kagawa from Kyushu University’s Faculty of Economics highlights in his recent study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production that the ban on gas vehicles alone may not be enough to achieve Japan’s decarbonization goals.
Kagawa explains that their research focused on the entire lifecycle of a car, from the extraction of resources to its disposal, in order to gauge the overall CO2 emissions. This approach, known as lifecycle CO2 (LC-CO2) analysis, provides a comprehensive understanding of a vehicle’s environmental impact.
The study reveals several critical policy areas that need attention, including decarbonizing the supply chain, improving the energy mix, and prolonging the lifespan of vehicles.
Constructing a car involves substantial energy consumption. Every stage of the process, from mining and processing raw materials to transportation and assembly, contributes to CO2 emissions. Kagawa emphasizes that manufacturing an EV can result in 1.5 to 2 times more emissions compared to a gasoline-powered car. Therefore, if car manufacturers increase EV production without decarbonizing the supply chain, emissions reduction efforts will be hindered.
To make significant progress, Japan must transition to a more renewable energy mix. Currently, the country heavily relies on fossil fuels, which constituted 76% of its energy mix in 2020, with renewables accounting for only 20%. Even if everyone switches to EVs, charging these vehicles using primarily fossil fuels would still result in carbon emissions.
Japan’s goal for 2030 is to have a energy mix comprising 50% fossil fuels and 28% renewable energy. However, this level of improvement will not be sufficient to achieve a considerable reduction in LC-CO2 emissions. The EV policy, starting in 2035, targets a 10% reduction, equivalent to 2.9 million tons of CO2 emissions from vehicles by 2050. Nonetheless, this reduction falls short of achieving a carbon-neutral society with regards to vehicles, according to Kagawa.
The research conducted by Kyushu University highlights the need for a holistic approach to Japan’s transition to electric and hybrid vehicles. It emphasizes the importance of not only promoting EVs but also addressing the entire lifecycle emissions and transitioning towards cleaner energy sources. By implementing these solutions, Japan can make significant strides in combating the climate crisis and achieving its decarbonization goals.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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