ETA warning about electric carsMore electric cars could speed up climate change

12 November 2009

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The Environmental Transport Association (ETA) has revealed findings that suggest switching to electric cars could actually contribute to climate change.

This is according to a report entitled 'How to avoid an electric shock: Electric cars from hype to reality', conducted by the European lobby group Transport & Environment.

The organisation is co-founded and supported by the ETA, and has been studying the impact electric cars may have on the planet if their introduction is not managed properly.

CO2 could increase

The concept of an ‘automatic’ reduction in CO2 emissions and oil dependence with the increased use of electric cars is just one of a number of myths the report looks to dispel.

Potentially, there are environmental benefits, but, under the current EU emissions trading system, the reports suggest that sales of electric cars are ‘likely to result in higher overall CO2 emissions and oil consumption’.

Andrew Davis, a director at ETA said: ‘While the report is not intended to dampen enthusiasm for electric vehicles, their introduction should not be viewed as a panacea.

Significant changes to the way we produce and tax power are needed before we will reap any benefits.’

Green electricity sources needed

The report states that if the electricity is supplied via green sources, such as wind, solar or water power, then electric cars become the greenest solution. But if owners use our current coal-fired power stations, existing hybrid vehicles actually perform better.

There’s also the concern that the National Grid may not have the capacity to cope with the increased demand of electric cars without resorting to additional coal and nuclear power sources.

Similarly, promises of low running costs mean electric cars are expected to increase the popularity of car transport. The report suggests this would necessitate the higher taxation of electricity, and that onboard electricity metering would be essential.

However, all of the above is dependent on electric vehicles becoming affordable. The report feels it is unlikely electric cars will be able to ‘compete head-on with conventional vehicles within the next two decades’. In fact, it does not expect them to account for 25% of sales by 2050.

Take the sensible route

In order to promote the sensible introduction of electric-powered transport, the report recommends tightening ‘long-term CO2 standards for cars to 80g/km by 2020 and 60g/km by 2025’, while also increasing fuel taxation. This will force the car industry to invest time and money into the development of electrically powered vehicles.

At the same time, ‘road tax exemption and grants for electric cars should be abolished’. This is to encourage energy efficiency, rather than move emissions ‘from exhaust pipes to power station chimneys’.

Finally, the electricity used by electric cars must be measured: ‘On-board metering of the amount of electricity will be critical in order to manage and regulate demand for electric vehicles.’


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