Putting more electric cars on the road could increase carbon emissions unless they run on green energy, charges a new independent report commissioned jointly by Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace and Transport & Environment. The environmental organisations call for national renewable electricity targets to ensure electric vehicles are truly ‘zero emissions’.
“While electric cars can be part of the shift to a more sustainable transport model, they must be coupled with a commitment to ensure they run on renewable electricity,” said Sonja Meister of Friends of the Earth Europe. “Efforts must also be made to reduce overall travel demand – if people continue to drive as much as they want in electric cars regardless of whether they are powered in a sustainable way it will result in more harmful emissions than today.”
Dumb electric vehicles plugged into a dumb electricity grid would only add demand for coal and nuclear power and drive us away from a sustainable energy future.
–Greenpeace EU Transport Policy Advisor Franziska Achterberg
The study concludes that existing EU legislation on car emissions is flawed because it allows manufacturers to use sales of electric vehicles to offset the continued production of gas-guzzling cars. So-called ‘super credits’ allow carmakers to sell 3.5 high-emitting cars for every electric car sold, without affecting their overall CO2 target. According to the report, increasing sales of electric cars to 10% of the total could lead to a 20% increase in both oil consumption and CO2 emissions in the EU car sector.
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Environmental organisations call for super credits to be axed in current and future CO2 laws – starting with proposed EU legislation to regulate emissions from vans. The organisations also call for all electric cars sold on the EU market to be equipped with so-called smart-metering technology that allows vehicles to only be charged when surplus electricity – mostly from renewables like wind and solar – is available on the power grid.
“We need smart electric vehicles that interact with smart electricity grids so cars can charge up on green power,” Greenpeace EU transport policy advisor Franziska Achterberg said. “Dumb electric vehicles plugged into a dumb electricity grid would only add demand for coal and nuclear power and drive us away from a sustainable energy future.”
Nusa Urbancic of Transport & Environment voiced similar sentiments.
“Just as every car sold today has to have an odometer to show how far it has driven, every electric car needs a smart meter to show how much electricity has been used and better still, whether or not that electricity came from a renewable source,” Urbancic said. “Just plugging thousands of electric cars in like kettles would leave consumers and electricity suppliers in confusion and chaos. It’s up to the EU to ensure that all new cars sold in Europe are fitted with this kind of technology.”