Exploring Decarbonization Pathways for USA Passenger and Freight Mobility: Article No. 6913

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Passenger and freight travel account for 28% of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions today. We explore pathways to reduce transportation emissions using NREL's TEMPO model under bounding assumptions on future travel behavior, technology advancement, and policies. Results show diverse routes to 80% or more well-to-wheel GHG reductions by 2050. Rapid adoption of zero-emission vehicles coupled with a clean electric grid is essential for deep decarbonization; in the median scenario, zero-emission vehicle sales reach 89% for passenger light-duty and 69% for freight trucks by 2030 and 100% sales for both by 2040. Up to 3,000 terawatt-hours of electricity could be needed in 2050 to power plug-in electric vehicles. Increased sustainable biofuel usage is also essential for decarbonizing aviation (10-42 billion gallons needed in 2050) and to support legacy vehicles during the transition. Managing travel demand growth can ease this transition by reducing the need for clean electricity and sustainable fuels.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages15
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5400-84161


  • biofuel
  • decarbonization
  • demand
  • electricity
  • GHG
  • mobility
  • pathways
  • sensitivity
  • transportation
  • uncertainty


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