Electric cars could give environment nasty shock

Loopholes in European Union (EU) law mean electric car sales could lead to more carbon emissions and oil use not less, a new report warns.

EU targets for car CO2 emissions include ‘supercredits’ allowing manufacturers to sell 3.5 gas-guzzling SUVs for every electric vehicle and still reach targets.

Electric cars are also counted as ‘zero emissions’ despite the fact their electricity can come from high carbon fossil “dirty” fuels such as coal.

The report by sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) says: “Without a doubt, electric and plug-in hybrid cars can help reduce CO2 emissions and oil consumption.”

But it adds: “In theory, the EU emissions trading system implies that plug-in electric cars would not increase CO2 emissions, because the power sector is covered by the scheme.

“But those same laws have important flaws. And if they remain unchanged, sales of electric cars will likely lead to higher overall CO2 emissions and oil consumption. That may be counterintuitive, but it is nevertheless true.”

José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, wants transport to be ‘decarbonised’ citing the development of electric cars as a key aim.

But T&E says these loopholes mean carmakers choosing to market electric cars to meet EU targets would have to do less to reduce emissions of conventional cars resulting in higher CO2 emissions and oil use.

It wants ‘supercredits’ and zero emission ratings for electric cars “abolished” and CO2 and fuel efficiency standards tightened.

“Electric cars should be rewarded for their energy efficiency, not for moving emissions from exhaust pipes to power station chimneys,” the report says.

Jos Dings, T&E director, added: “For electric cars to be a success for the environment, and for the industry, pressure on fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions for all cars must be kept up.”

The report also argues the EU must ensure the extra demand for electricity is met from renewable electricity and not more dirty coal.

It calls for every car to be fitted with ‘smart meters’ to measure electricity use and origin.

“How to Avoid an Electric Shock – Electric Cars from Myth to Reality” is published this month and available from the website www.transportenvironment.org

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie