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Making the Transition to Light-duty Electric-drive Vehicles in the U.S.: Costs in Perspective to 2035

UCD-ITS-RR-16-21

Research Report

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Suggested Citation:
Ogden, Joan M., Lewis Fulton, Daniel Sperling (2016) Making the Transition to Light-duty Electric-drive Vehicles in the U.S.: Costs in Perspective to 2035. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-16-21

This paper estimates the investment and subsidy costs that may be needed to bring light-duty battery and fuel cell electric-drive vehicles into the U.S. market in large numbers by 2035, along with the investment costs and subsidies for associated electricity and hydrogen refueling infrastructure. We estimate that during this 20-year transition period, the investments (additional purchase costs) for the vehicles and the first costs of installing refueling stations and charging infrastructure could total $300 to $600 billion dollars. Purchase cost increments for vehicles typically make up 70-80% of these costs. Using a breakeven cost analysis and taking into account fuel savings, we estimate that subsidy levels for vehicles may be 10-20% less than these first cost increments. The separate subsidies required for fuel infrastructure are estimated to be a very small percentage of their investment costs, particularly if hydrogen refueling infrastructure becomes commercially viable after an initial period of introduction in early adopter (or “lighthouse”) cities, as we assume in our scenario. Several sensitivity analysis cases do not change the general conclusions regarding the magnitudes of investments and subsidies. These investments and subsidies are found to be a relatively small share of total projected U.S. consumer spending on new vehicles and fuels over the next 20 years, and could be paid for with small percentage fees on new vehicle sales and a few cent increase in fuel taxes.