Skip to main content
To KTH's start page To KTH's start page

Aviation's VIP line must be reviewed

Even the climate gains that electrical vehicles have are overrated

Published Feb 22, 2011

Sweden's most notable transport researcher has recently presented his thesis and it is an extensive report. Among other things, it appears that better vehicle technologies and fuels are not sufficient to achieve our climate goals, that there is a need to reduce car travel by 30 percent and that air traffic will surpass car traffic within 10 years as regards the emission of greenhouse gases.

Jonas Åkerman
Jonas Åkerman, researcher at the Department of Environmental Strategies Research, KTH.

"According to a scenario I've worked with, car travel per person must decrease by 30 percent by the year 2050. Society's total amount of emissions will fall in my vision of the future by 80-90 percent, which is in line with Sweden's and the EU's agreed target of limiting global warming by two degrees," says Jonas Åkerman, researcher at the Department of Environmental Strategies Research, KTH.

He believes that better vehicle technologies and new fuels are necessary but these measures are not sufficient alone to achieve the objective of global warming no greater than 2 degrees. Car and plane travel and the volume of heavy-vehicle traffic needs to be reduced at the same time. Such a shift in the transport system would also produce a range of positive knock-on effects, including a more attractive urban environment, reduced dependence on oil and health improvements.

Jonas Åkerman presents a number of other interesting points in his thesis, including the following research results.

* Replacing petrol and diesel cars with electric cars will not provide the complete solution to road traffic emissions. As with ethanol cars a few years ago, expectations are too high. There are a lot of question marks surrounding both pure electric cars and hybrids. They offer climate-gain, but this gain is not as big as many people believe. Nor is the electricity carbon-dioxide free when we remain dependent on coal-fired power production, for example from Denmark and which will remain so for a few more decades. In addition, the manufacture of automobiles involves significant emissions of carbon dioxide. A major barrier to a greater market share are also the high costs of electric/hybrid vehicles, often a price premium of between SEK 100,000-200,000 compared to a conventional car. For electric cars to reach a significant market share there is also a need for much higher petrol and diesel prices compared to what we have today, this is in addition to technological development, according to Jonas Åkerman.

* In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, air traffic will surpass car traffic within 10 years. To counteract this rapid growth, aviation's exemption from VAT and carbon dioxide taxes should be removed, according to Jonas Åkerman. There should be the same taxes and VAT on the same products and services.

* It is not sufficient to invest heavily in all modes of transport while still trying to achieve the climate objectives that Sweden and the EU have endorsed. Instead what is needed is a consistent prioritization of bicycle transportation, public transportation and IT. In the case of the latter - IT - it is important to increase the users' habit of making use of IT-based systems for video conferencing systems, according to Jonas Åkerman. It is also important that companies have the courage to release worker constraints and allow them greater opportunities to work from home.

* A diversity of vehicles is important to achieve climate benefits. One way of solving this problem is via vehicle pools, where everything from electric mopeds to large estate cars may be included, which means that you can customize the means of conveyance and transport emissions based on what has to be done and what is needed. There are already successful examples, including the carpool Mobility in Switzerland, with over 90,000 users, according to Jonas Åkerman.

For more information, contact Jonas Åkerman at 08 - 790 73 02 or

Peter Larsson