An equitable transition from combustion engines to battery electric vehicles: Theoretical framework and status in Germany

Equitable mobility involves all transportation modes and a range of economic, social, and urban planning considerations. This study focuses on one important part of equitable mobility and the decarbonization of the transport sector: the transition from internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) to battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

First, it provides theoretical background on the concept of equity, equality, and justice in the adoption of electric vehicles, and the manifold and interrelated causes of inequity in this context. Second, it focuses on the status of research on equity in Germany’s transition to electric vehicles and identifies knowledge gaps for further research.

Key findings include:

An equitable transition from ICEVs to BEVs is a multifaceted topic. An equitable electric vehicle transition involves factors related to vehicle purchase and ownership, but also other aspects ranging from information campaigns to lower-income households or access to charging infrastructure.

The causes of inequity in this transition are manifold and interrelated. To establish a common conceptual framework, this paper defines seven broad dimensions that cause inequity: economic, environmental, health, spatial, procedural, legal, and data.

The current transition from ICEVs to BEVs in Germany is not equitable, according to studies and registration data. Private buyers and users of electric cars are a small part of the population: mostly male, with a comparatively high income and a high level of education.

Further research should contribute to reviewing the current German policy framework on the adoption of electric vehicles. Marginalized groups who depend on a car for their everyday mobility should be the focus of future policies.