The SolarEV City Concept: Key to net zero emissions by 2050

A team of researchers explored the possibility of combining rooftop photovoltaics (PVs) with electric vehicles (EVs) as a strategy to provide clean, cost-effective, and dependable electricity in urban settings.
Shubhangi Dua
solar panels with city scape in background
Trying to meet net zero by 2050

baranozdemir / iStock  

The city of Paris aims to reduce local emissions by 100 percent by the year 2050, in France’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In recent developments, a team of researchers explored the possibility of combining rooftop photovoltaics (PVs) with electric vehicles (EVs) as a viable and scalable strategy to provide clean, cost-effective, and dependable electricity in urban settings, with particular attention to Paris and its surrounding regions.

Achieving net zero emissions by 2050

In its goal to reach net zero emissions in about 27 years, researchers from the Tohoku University in Kyoto propose a sustainable solution for the city of lights – the SolarEV City Concept.

The idea entails combining the use of solar panels on rooftops with electric vehicles in the city. As a result, EVs would reduce the carbon footprint significantly by decreasing emissions from gasoline and diesel as the fuels would no longer be in use to their current capacity. 

Presently, approximately 71 to 76 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions come from urban areas; therefore, decarbonizing cities aiming to reach net zero emissions by 2050 is all the more important. 

The SolarEV City Concept also has the potential to store surplus electricity generated by solar panels. The stored solar energy can be used to power homes during periods when sunlight is not available. However, the effectiveness of this concept varies considerably from one city to another.

A statement by the university reported that the first study based on Kyoto found that the city has the potential to reduce carbon emissions from electricity and gasoline-powered cars by 60 to 70 percent if 70 percent of the rooftops were equipped with solar panels and all cars became electric.

Substantial reduction in energy costs

Additionally, Kyoto could save 22 to 37 percent on energy costs by 2030. “But for more densely urban areas in Japan, like Kawasaki and Tokyo, these reductions were less,” researchers added.

However, the emission rates would vary in different cities and countries. Although, similar studies have shown that countries such as South Korea, China, and Indonesia have documented substantial drops in emissions. The study also showed that urban areas could save energy costs.

Since Paris experiences seasonal variations in daylight hours and weather, researchers examined the city considering the weather limitations and analyzed the neighboring region of Ile-de-France. They compared the findings to that of Kyoto.

Regarding the findings, Takuro Kobashi, associate professor and co-leader of the research, stated that Paris could only supply roughly 30 percent of its electricity needs through rooftop PVs. Furthermore, the impact of ECs as storage batteries is limited as the PV generation is consumed inside the city.

Key findings

Upon analyzing the surrounding Parisian region, which is characterized by numerous low-rise buildings, the researchers uncovered that by equipping 71 percent of the rooftops with solar panels, it could meet a considerable 78 percent of the total electricity demand for the year 2019. 

Integrating EVs as energy storage units within this framework, even after factoring in the EV supply demand, the prospect of supplying approximately 60 percent of the electricity needed is promising. 

Ultimately, scientists have claimed this potential development could lead to a noteworthy 23 percent reduction in energy costs by 2030. 

Kobashi stated: "Our study not only highlights the carbon reduction potential of implementing a SolarEV City in Paris and the Ile-de-France, but it shows the need to consider regional variations.”

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