• Cut out EU loopholes to avoid an electric shock

    The EU is in danger of wasting the potential for electric cars to cut greenhouse gas emissions. That's the main conclusion of a new report by T&E which warns that promoting electric cars in isolation will not only under-use the environmental benefits but could lead to more carbon dioxide emissions than if no electric cars were produced. The report makes three clear recommendations for changes to EU policy and thinking.

    ‘The message from this report is not a negative one,’ said T&E’s director Jos Dings, ‘because without doubt, electric and plug-in hybrid cards can help reduce CO2 emissions and oil consumption. But it is a warning not to fall for a dream, and a call for EU policy makers to keep their eye on the ball.

    ‘Anyone visiting a motor show can get only one impression – that the future is electric – but the game for policy makers is cutting emissions and reducing our dependence on oil, not promoting electric cars. And promoting electric cars without maintaining pressure on fuel efficiency standards will kill any chance of success.’

    One of the biggest criticisms of existing EU law is the ‘supercredits’ which allow car makers to sell up to 3.5 gas-guzzling cars for every electric vehicle they sell and still reach their official EU overall emissions target. This means that the more electric vehicles that are sold, the more oil is used and CO2 is emitted.

    Another criticism is that electric cars are counted as ‘zero-emissions’ despite the fact that the electricity they use can come from power stations driven by high-carbon fossil fuels such as coal.

    Among its recommendations, the report – ‘How to avoid an electric shock’ – says long-term CO2 emissions standards from cars must be tightened to at least 80 g/km by 2020, that supercredits and zero-rating must be abolished, and that the power sector should be decarbonised. It also calls for on-board metering of the quantity and quality of electricity used to power electric cars.

    Dings added, ‘Hydrogen, biofuels and earlier interest in electric cars all came to nothing for different reasons, but what they have in common is that they all distracted policy makers from forcing car makers to improve fuel efficiency across the board. With transport consuming two thirds of the oil we use and causing 28% of Europe’s CO2 emissions, it would be criminal to allow the potential of electric cars to be wasted by decision-makers being distracted by technological hype.’