April 18, 2024

Coupling of the Electricity and Transportation Sectors - Part I: Sector Overviews


“Sector coupling” is a concept that addresses potential designs for the future power industry. Traditionally, the energy sectors, i.e., electricity supply, transport, and industry, have functioned largely independently from one another. Thus, the concept of sector coupling means that the electricity sector would become the central pillar of the energy system, supplying the other sectors – transportation and industry – with energy in various ways, a scheme described by the term “Power-to-X”. This report delves into the ambitious goal set by the United States to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, with a pivotal milestone of making half of all passenger vehicles sold in America zero-emission by 2030. Central to achieving this objective is the electrification of the transportation sector, resulting in complex interactions between this sector and the electric industry. As electric vehicles become more prevalent, a shift in the dependency on electricity for vehicle charging emerges, alongside a reduction in the electricity demand associated with maintaining the fossil fuel supply chain. Both the electricity and fossil fuel have been identified as critical infrastructure sectors, the transportation sector's historical reliance on fossil fuels, and the mature supply chain supporting them are explored. This study emphasizes the existing sectoral coupling between the electric energy and transportation sectors, extending beyond vehicle charging to essential operations at refineries, pipeline facilities, storage, and fuel extraction. Recognizing the critical dependency of fossil fuel supply chain operations on the electric sector, this research underscores the need for a comprehensive view of the evolving dynamics between the transportation and electric sectors. This study has been split into two segments, Part-I provides an overview of the existing fossil fuel supply chain architecture and the electrical sector. We provide an in-depth analysis of the grid-transportation sectoral coupling, its interactions, the vulnerabilities and essential take-aways that would help us to address them and apply towards an electrified transportation sector in the future. We engaged with stakeholders to understand their expectations in enabling an electrified transportation. We accumulate the understandings from the current fossil fuel-based system in developing a risk matrix, by identifying all the threats and vulnerabilities and how would they apply to both the current and future transportation systems in Part-II of this report.

Published: April 18, 2024


Mitra B., S. Pal, H.M. Reeve, and M. Kintner-Meyer. 2024. Coupling of the Electricity and Transportation Sectors - Part I: Sector Overviews Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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