Among the barriers: Until many alternative fuel (AF) vehicles are on the road, people won't consider buying one-so there won't be many on the road. Catch-22.
may be a surprisingly long time.
Given today's environmental pressures and energy security concerns, we need to move away from fossil-fuel-powered vehicles. But repeated attempts to introduce other technologies during the past century have nearly all failed. Dethroning the gasoline-consuming internal combustion engine (ICE) has proved difficult.
"The challenge is not just introducing an AF vehicle," said postdoctoral associate Jeroen Struben of the Sloan School of Management, who has been examining the mechanisms behind such market transitions. "Consumer acceptance, the fueling infrastructure and manufacturing capability all have to evolve at the same time."
Thus, consumer exposure to AF vehicles is just one feedback loop that can slow adoption. Similarly, fuel suppliers won't build AF stations until they're certain of future demand; but until the fuel is widely available, consumers won't buy the vehicles. And manufacturers won't be able to make AF vehicles cheaper and better until their production volume is high; but high-volume production won't happen until such improvements are in place to attract buyers.
And then of course there's the status quo to be overcome-the well-established and highly attractive gasoline-ICE vehicle and the fueling infrastructure, energy supply chain and other industries that support it.
Understanding market behavior
To analyze the behavior of this system over time, Struben and Professor John D. Sterman of the Sloan School have developed a system dynamics model that simulates how markets for AF vehicles may (or may not) grow. The model can track the fate of various vehicle platforms, including conventional and advanced ICE, hybrids and plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells and biofuels. Decisions made by consumers, fuel suppliers and auto manufacturers change the market, consumer opinion, vehicle attributes and other factors, which then feed back to alter the decisions people make tomorrow.Finally, the model accounts for the peculiarities of human behavior.
Analyses to date show that a key factor slowing AF-vehicle adoption is the long lifetime of today's vehicles. People buy cars infrequently, so it will be a long time before a given consumer is exposed to enough AF vehicles to feel comfortable buying one. Even an AF vehicle that's as attractive (objectively) as a gasoline-ICE vehicle won't catch on without strong and lasting promotion campaigns.
Concern about finding fuel also slows adoption. In a simulation representing California, entrepreneurs opened AF stations in urban areas but not in less-populated rural areas where demand is initially lower. Urban AF drivers must then avoid the rural areas, reducing the appeal of AF vehicles and slowing their sales everywhere.
Another counterintuitive result: Tripling the fuel efficiency of the AF vehicle should attract more buyers. But since drivers then need much less fuel, energy suppliers build fewer AF stations, lowering the appeal of these efficient cars. The net result? Sales may actually decline.
Despite such findings, Sterman sees reason for optimism: There are tipping points. With policy incentives that push the new technology forward and sufficient coordination across decision-makers, eventually enough AF vehicles will be on the road that all the decision-makers will buy in and the AF market can become self-sustaining.
The researchers are not ready to make policy recommendations, but their analyses provide initial insights. They clearly illustrate the effectiveness of carbon emission taxes, but they also produce some more-unexpected findings. For example, given the importance of vehicle lifetime, providing incentives to scrap current vehicles may be more effective than direct efforts to get more AF vehicles on the road. Likewise, providing subsidies for building AF stations will help, but giving bonuses for building and especially keeping them in remote areas may be critical.
Most important, for markets to reach the tipping point, policy incentives may have to be kept in place for many decades, even through periods of declining fuel prices. Withdrawing the policies too soon will result in yet another failed attempt to shift the market away from gasoline-powered ICE vehicles.
This research was supported by the Project on Innovation in Markets and Organizations at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Shell Hydrogen.
Written by Nancy Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative
Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt
Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction