Analysis

Moving beyond alternative fuel hype to decarbonize transportation

  • Nature Energy volume 1, Article number: 16013 (2016)
  • doi:10.1038/nenergy.2016.13
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Abstract

In the past three decades, government, industry and other stakeholders have repeatedly been swept up with the ‘fuel du jour’, claiming that a particular alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) technology can succeed in replacing conventional gasoline-powered vehicles. However, AFV technologies have experienced relatively little success, with fossil fuels still accounting for about 95% of global transport energy use. Here, using the US as a case study, we conduct a media analysis to show how society’s attention has skipped among AFV types between 1980 and 2013, including methanol, natural gas, plug-in electric, hybrid electric, hydrogen and biofuels. Although our results provide no indication as to whether hype ultimately has a net positive or negative impact on AFV innovation, we offer several recommendations that governments can follow to move past hype to support significant AFV adoption and displace fossil fuel use in the transportation sector.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Navius Research Inc., Box 48300 Bentall, Vancouver, British Columbia V7X 1A1, Canada

    • Noel Melton
  2. School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6, Canada

    • Noel Melton
    •  & Jonn Axsen
  3. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, 1715 Tilia Street, Davis, California 95616, USA

    • Daniel Sperling

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Contributions

D.S. provided initial inspiration for this project. J.A. and N.M. developed the study design, and N.M. analysed the data. All authors contributed to writing the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Noel Melton.