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Plug-in vehicles are a savior for the environment, at least according to research conducted by groups such as the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC). According to their studies conducted back in 2008, CO2 emissions could drop by as much as 450 million tons annually if only 60 % of light vehicles in the U.S. converted to plug-ins. A 60% reduction in CO2 accompanied by an 8 % increase in electrical consumption seems like a fair trade off in lieu of the environmental benefits of plug-in vehicles, but the research has overlooked one major aspect. Where does the electricity come from?
According to the Environmental Transport Association of the UK, switching to electric vehicles could actually lead to an increase in CO2 emissions followed by an increased rate of climate change. Why? The ETA sites the major use of coal to produce electricity. The coal powered electrical grid is indeed a dirty method used to produce electricity, but it is also all too common across the globe.
The ETA warns that a shift from gasoline to electric powered vehicles must be accompanied by a change in the method for producing electricity to ward off the increased rate of climate change that will be realized by switching to electric vehicles. The ETA's statement from recent research reads, "Sales of electric cars are likely to result in higher overall CO2 emissions and oil consumption. Electric cars powered by wind or solar energy are obviously superior, but if the electricity comes from coal, hybrids perform better."
So how do we reduce overall CO2 emissions? The ETA report recommend several options listed below.
Stringent CO2 standards for cars
The most certain way to promote electric-powered transport is to tighten long-term CO2 standards for cars to 80 g/km by 2020 and 60 g/km by 2025 whilst at the same time increasing fuel taxes.
A lack of stringent CO2 standards removes the main incentive for motor industry to invest in electrification. Road tax exemption and grants for electric cars should be abolished; electric cars must be rewarded for their energy efficiency, not for moving emissions from exhaust pipes to power station chimneys.
Quantity and quality of electricity used in electric cars must be measured.
On-board metering of the amount of electricity will be critical in order to manage and regulate demand for electric vehicles.
The power sector has to be de-carbonised Existing loopholes in the Emissions Trading Scheme need to be closed and the cap further tightened.
The strict guidelines listed above may result in reduced emissions, but could hamper early sales of EVs. By removing grants and tax exemption, electric vehicles become significantly more expensive than their gasoline counterparts thus reducing the likelihood of early adoption. Though there is no single solution to reduce emissions, a long term goal of reduction is certainly expected. The world's dependency on coal for electricity is not to be overlooked. In order to achieve reduced overall CO2 emissions, there must be a cleaner method used for producing electricity.
Source: ETA Press Release
Switching to electric cars could speed climate change
The idea that a wholesale switch to electric cars would automatically reduce CO2 emissions and dependence on oil is one of a number of myths dispelled by a major new report conducted on behalf of the Environmental Transport Association (ETA).
The report found that whilst there were significant potential environmental benefits to be had from a switch to electric vehicles, these were wholly dependent on changes in the way electricity was generated, energy taxed and CO2 emissions regulated.