Electric Cars – the problem of hidden emissions?

In this blog we look at the thorny issue that electric cars are not really that 'green' if you consider how the electricity is generated to power them. They are only zero emissions at the tailpipe unless they can be powered by renewable energy. The question is, is there any substance left in the argument left that electric vehicles are better for the environment than normal fossil fuelled cars? Well, interestingly it appears that the answer may well be 'yes' but this depends on the energy generation profile of the country you are looking at..... One of the principal reasons put forward for encouraging electric vehicles is their potential to reduce the amount of CO2 produced per mile or kilometer. However, the European Union is setting targets for an average of 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer by 2020 for new conventional cars. In addition, if the latest estimates by the WWF and Allianz SE are correct, the US, the UK, Japan and Germany will take several decades to provide grid-sourced electricity which will result in significantly less carbon dioxide per mile being produced by an electric car than the equivalent new EU (or Japanese) car running on gasoline or diesel. However, this is not the case across the globe. For example France, is one country where electric cars do have less impact than fossil fuel vehicles taking into account the emissions impact of the way energy is generated. Simply put, based on this research France and Canada will, and should, press ahead aggressively with electric vehicles. It already makes excellent environmental sense with less CO2 emissions than conventional cars. Elsewhere, significant improvements need to be made in the generation of electricity, specifically renewables before electric vehicles will fully stack up environmentally. We still feel the UK can do this and obviously electric cars still have a range of extremely important benefits which will make them an important part of the future transport portfolio.

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