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Title: Electric cars in China : energy, infrastructure and market potentials
Author: Liu, Jian
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The electric vehicle (EV) has been regarded as one of the most promising alternative fuel vehicle technologies that could reduce China’s energy reliance on imported oil and transport sector carbon emissions. The success of EVs in China will depend on a series of determinants including their energy consumption and emission reduction potentials, battery performance and costs, charging infrastructure provision, the driving behaviour and the commercialization strategies. Some issues have been intensively investigated by previous research whilst some others gradually receive academic and governmental attentions. Instead of covering all determinants, this thesis focuses on four key aspects of the electric car development in China: the energy consumption and carbon emissions of electric cars based on the country’s energy mix; the expected electric car driving behaviour and its impacts on the power grid; the deployment strategy of charging infrastructure and the business operation models that could reduce the purchase cost of electric cars and accelerate their market diffusion. The research finds that according to the current energy mix and driving behaviour in China, the introduction of electric cars would largely reduce the transport sectors’ oil consumption. However, the carbon emission saving of electric cars requires a synchronized progress in the energy industry and the power grid infrastructure. Without the growing adoption of renewable sources in the electricity generation mix and the high efficient power transmission infrastructure, electric cars could achieve little environmental benefits particularly for carbon emission reduction. This research also finds that the current external costs of carbon emissions from cars are not high enough to justify financial policies that would favour electric vehicles. Moving towards cleaner technologies at present may not be justified on economic terms but it is justified on political and environmental terms. In addition, the performance of current electric cars, the driving range per charge in particular, is still significantly inferior to conventional vehicles running on petroleum fuels, which poses a remarkable challenge for electric cars’ market acceptance and implies the importance of charging infrastructure provision. This research estimates the charging impact of electric cars on the power grid in two case study cities through comparing charging infrastructure deployment strategies integrating three charging methods in both cities. Some innovative business operating models that aim to reduce the high initial purchase costs of electric cars are simulated. It shows all these models require substantial political and financial interventions to stimulate both supply (charging service and infrastructure provision) and demand (consumers purchase) in the early stage of market penetration for electric cars. Finally, the thesis provides recommendations for the policy implementation timing and stresses the importance of the parallel development in the upstream low carbon energy supply and the downstream vehicle (battery) research and development (R&D) in the near term.
Supervisor: Banister, David ; Santos, Georgina Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Transport ; Science and technology (business & management) ; Microeconomics ; Democratic government ; transport energy ; electric vehicle ; life cycle assessment ; charging infrastructure ; greenhouse gas emissions