In September, the president of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, declared that “decarbonising…the transport sector… as well as the development of clean and electric cars” would be key priorities for the next five years.
The world has changed. Transport in the EU consumes two thirds of the oil we use and causes 28% of our CO2 emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from transport are also projected to grow in future, while other sectors are cutting back. Decarbonisation of transport will be essential if the world is to have a hope of keeping global warming below 2 degrees centigrade.
A truly sustainable transport system is difficult to foresee without a shift away from oil towards more sustainable sources of energy. Current biofuels policy is creating more problems than it solves, and the oil business is increasingly moving towards highly damaging sources such as extraction of oil from tar sands and oil shale. In that context, electrification of transport does currently seem to be the technological pathway most likely to deliver the deepest carbon cuts.
The first aim of this report is not to add to the hype, nor to pour cold water on the enthusiasm for electric cars. It is to take a close hard look at the facts. It asks the question: what role can electric cars play in the decarbonisation of transport? It is an attempt to look behind the hype, and an attempt to bring the available scientific evidence to the attention of policymakers and the public. It is not definitive. Indeed, in a number of areas our research uncovered a distinct lack of good data. That in itself is a reason for policymakers to pause for thought.
National policies are not covered. Neither are the array of measures that will be needed to cut transport emissions and other negative impacts by the degree necessary. Road pricing, taxation policies and traffic management, for example, are not discussed but will all be necessary for a serious attempt at getting transport emissions under control.
The second aim, and perhaps the most important, is to offer some guidance to EU policymakers about what to do, and what not to do in the case of electric cars. In particular we look at how current legislation will need to change if electric cars are to be a success. And by success, we mean playing a serious role in a strategy to decarbonise transport.