As diesel sales slump and those of electric vehicles pass one million, batteries are fast becoming a major part of the EU’s industrial future. It is not just talk this time. Investment is happening: LG Chem is planning for production in Poland and Samsung SDI is doing likewise in Hungary; NorthVolt has just signed a large loan to build a demo plant in Sweden, and Saft, a subsidiary of Total, announced a battery consortium with Siemens, Solvay and MAN. Amidst all this, the environmental benefits of electric cars are under intense scrutiny with news articles on this a regular feature in most EU countries. So, do electric cars reduce car CO2 emissions or do they just shift the problem elsewhere?
Earlier this year, the European Parliament voted on the renewable energy directive (RED). While the outcome was not ideal, we welcomed Parliament’s vote because it caps food-based biofuels, redirects investments into the fuels of the future (electricity, advanced biofuels) and ends support for palm oil biodiesel.
Shifting to zero-emission vehicles in Europe will create jobs and drive economic growth, a major new study released today by Cambridge Econometrics for the European Climate Foundation reveals. The analysis, endorsed by Transport & Environment (T&E) and a host of corporations, including from the motor industry, found that moving away from vehicles powered by oil to ones driven by renewable energy will create 206,000 net additional jobs by 2030.
The costs of emissions-free, electric vans are now as low as their diesel competitors. That’s according to a new study by consultancy CE Delft that focuses on the small van segment largely used in cities and which accounts for 40% of total van sales in the EU. The study takes into account purchase price, taxes, fuel bills and maintenance costs over six years, equivalent to a standard lease contract. The rapid fall in battery prices – they dropped by 24% in 2017 alone – is the main factor in making electric vans reach cost parity.
Light commercial vehicles, or vans, are a neglected area of EU road transport policy as they are often exempt from safety and environmental policy such as driving regulations or tolls, compared to their direct competitors, trucks. This enhances their attractiveness and in part explains why their use and emissions are growing. CO2 standards for van makers are much weaker than for cars, as a result van makers do not deploy the same efficient and innovative technologies to vans to lower their emissions.
Airlines lobby group, IATA, claims that aviation produces only 2% of global man-made CO2 emissions. While this is true, they are telling barely half the story. According to Professor Dr Volker Grewe, researcher at DLR and chair for climate effects of aviation at Technical University Delft, air transport’s contribution to climate change is roughly 5%. This is because in addition to emitting CO2, aircraft flying at altitude impact the atmosphere in various ways which have a large, albeit transient, additional warming effect.
The revelations that VW, Daimler and BMW commissioned research that forced monkeys and healthy human subjects to breathe toxic diesel fumes in a perverted attempt to prove their cars were clean is abhorrent. The methods bear shocking similarities to the tactics of the tobacco industry that funded research to disprove cigarettes were harmful with the explicit goal to undermine evidence from the World Health Organisation. It reveals a blurring of moral standards in German carmakers that starkly contrasts with the glossy brands the companies spend a fortune cultivating.
Emails released to Transport & Environment after an 18 month-long appeal process have confirmed that when crafting CO2 rules for aircraft, the European Commission – the regulator – gave Airbus – the regulated entity – privileged access to the EU decision-making process and allowed Airbus to determine the EU position. The result is a standard which does nothing for the climate or public health.
The European Parliament voted today to limit the support to biofuels made from food crops to 2017 national consumption levels and never higher than 7% of all transport fuels. Parliament also voted to remove biodiesel made from palm oil, the highest emitting biofuel in the market today, from the list of biofuels that can count towards the renewables target in 2021. This means that drivers will no longer be forced to burn palm oil in their cars and trucks.
This study shows that, in the period 2008 to 2011, a time before CO2 standards for trucks came into effect in the US, truck prices increased but fuel efficiency remained broadly static. Coming into force in 2011, standards ensured the deployment of fuel saving technologies and brought about a 24% fuel efficiency gain from 2011 to 2017.