By on March 11, 2010

In a study for the Danish Petroleum Industry Association, consulting firm Ea Energy Analyses concludes that electric vehicles (EVs) will not significantly improve the EU’s carbon footprint over the next 15 years. According to‘s write-up of the report:

The study demonstrates that while electric cars have the lowest ‘tail-pipe’ emissions, they cannot attain the same travel ranges or top speeds as conventional cars. An electric car that could cover a similar distance with one charge would in fact produce more CO2 emissions than diesel vehicles, as it is heavier and requires more energy

The EU is currently considering tax policy for electric vehicles, and this report is sure to throw some flammable fossil fuel on the debate. Though the report is somewhat suspect in the sense that it was commissioned by an influence group that seeks to perpetuate fossil fuel use, there’s no denying that Europe’s reliance on coal and gas-power for electricity generation negatively impacts the carbon footprint of EVs.

Meanwhile, the recent scandal surrounding climate change science (known as “Climate-Gate”) has The WSJ [sub]’s Neil Winston wondering if carbon-based emissions standards aren’t unnecessarily harming Europe’s automakers. With a 2020 benchmark of 60 MPG planned,Winston concludes (quoting Garel Rhys, Emeritus Professor at Cardiff University’s Business School):

If what is taken as gospel in terms of global warming turns out not to be the case, then the automotive industry has been encouraged and forced to spend huge amounts of money effectively for nothing. At the very least, the EU should re-jig the timetable so that 2020 standards are put back to 2025, and that would give a chance for the truth or otherwise about the climate debate to come to the fore. The 2020 standards are impossible to meet with petrol and diesel engines alone, and we are assuming a breakthrough in battery technologies

With short-term incentives favoring diesel but with long-term emissions standards requiring major investments in new technologies, the EU is facing quite the dilemma. And with the debate over climate change science re-energized, tough carbon-based emissions standards will be an obvious point of attack for the industry. What remains unchanged are the energy-independence-based motivations for efficiency standards, which could take on greater significance in the debate over standards ramp-ups.

Only one thing is certain in this confused political scene: government bailouts of failing car companies make it harder to justify further government assistance in meeting efficiency standards. Though Winston wails about the “crippling” burden high standards place on automakers, governments would have more resources to help the industry develop more ways to meet the standards if they weren’t so focused on protecting their national auto sectors in the face of declining sales. Meanwhile, the Danish study makes it clear that auto futuretech will make clean electrical generation as important to carbon and emissions policy as anything else. If the EU wants its standards to be attainable, its leaders have their work cut out for them.

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21 Comments on “The EU’s Green Dilemma...”

  • avatar

    Please tell me the red car was Photoshopped.


    • 0 avatar

      Nope. That hideous abomination is the ‘Reva’.
      And for the record it’s so sh*t it makes the Volt look like a space rocket.
      Also, never get into an accident in one…
      ” Euro NCAP crash test specifications found that the occupants would suffer “serious or life-threatening” injuries in a 64 km/h (40 mph) crash.”
      So not only would you look like an immense dumbass driving one, you’d die in a violent and painful way if anything so much as side-swiped you.

  • avatar

    Call me a ‘denier’. The terms ‘carbon footprint’, ‘greenhouse gas’, and ‘green’ are not part of my vocabulary.

    Yet I am all for reducing fuel consumption and pollution, of which CO2 is not one.

    As an engineer, I am very wary of the ‘crippling burden’ of regulations imposed by bureaucrats upon industry. However, the last 40 years have demonstrated that improved emission standards for cars has been greatly beneficial and attainable. On the other hand, we may be reaching a point of diminishing returns with further reductions.

    Consumers will be induced to buy EVs based upon either a)government force, or b) economic equivalence or ROI compared to other types of cars. Option (a) is unsustainable, to coin a phrase.

  • avatar

    I tend to agree. However, even if CO2 is proven to be a bad thing for the environment, more can be done to control it at a large stationary power plant than in a million individual vehicles. Whether it is hydro nuclear, IGCC coal plants etc. Efficiencies at modern plants and sequestering of CO2 are far better done at the large stationary plants. How you prefer to generate electricity is another huge debate. My fear in our obstructionist congress, (both parties) we will end up doing nothing. Recent modern grid projects are a perfect example.

  • avatar

    I don’t see any progress being made until somebody works out that you don’t really need 300 BHP to creep to the office in the morning or a scheme so apartment dwellers can charge their electric cars without hooligans chopping the cables, more green stuff especially in the vicinity of pavement and so on …

    What is a Chevette doing in Central London?

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with the concern about apartment dwellers. The same could be said about public charging areas on any city street. The risks of an unattended 8- to 12-hour plug-in far exceed those of a 5-minute fillup, attended by the driver.

      Weather issues also come to mind. Here in western PA we recently received 2 feet of snow in one shot. I wouldn’t want to dig out my tethered EV with a metal snowshovel (zap!), nor chip away the frozen ice from around it, only to find that the power hatch won’t close. And who pays for damaged power cords?

      What about cars/cords/chargers damaged by people who trip over the cords? And who pays the costs for the damaged person who fell?

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect 200-volts and Darwinian evolution will take care of the cable-cutting hooligans. The herd-culling effect alone could be a big win for society, even if they don’t reduce CO2 levels. One assumes that the power cords won’t be stretched across sidewalks, so that should mitigate the tripping epidemic. As far as snow, I wouldn’t be surprised if resistance in the cable generated enough heat to keep snow from sticking to it.

      My department charges an EV outside in rainy Oregon, haven’t had any issues.

  • avatar

    I don’t know how much of European electricity overall is fossil fuel, but France, which is one of the major pieces of Europe, is mostly, if not all nuke, so EVs in France would certainly help reduce carbon emissions. (Too bad, les amis!) But as I’ve said on here at least a million times, tax carbon, and don’t’ micromanage emissions controls. That will put the money where it will do the most good, and won’t screw up the auto industry.

    As for Winston on the WSJ, if he’s on their editorial board, well, I trust those people on environmental issues as much as I trust Dick Cheney. Pricing carbon will be good for the world, because all sources of carbon, except perhaps natural gas, have significant downsides beyond global warming.

  • avatar


    In London, that Chevette is a very exotic car, just like a Humber Snipe is here, and obviously it’s owner is showing it off. Unless it was photoshopped, like the red car.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Guys, the Chevette was a GM world car; this is a Vauxhall variant. The Chevette was based on the Opel Kadett.
      And the red car is a Riva G Wiz EV, very popular in London.

  • avatar

    Wow, so the Wall Street Journal is skeptical of AGW. Shocker. And perhaps someone can clarify what this whole Climate-Gate thing is, is this pertaining to the emails from that English university, or Gore’s carbon footprint, or some other dust that Exxon is kicking up?

    Regarding the range of diesels vs EVs; good point. Though the other Niedermeyer is raising some interesting points regarding Li prices falling and battery technology advancing. That comparison may not be too germain in 5 years.

    Regardless, I can take my lady’s grill’s propane tank (I’m a charcoal man) and swap it out at countless places. When one can do the same with EV batteries, maybe our children won’t have to bend over for the Saudis like we do.

  • avatar

    Ignored in most of these discussions, is talk about reducing total number of trips in cars. What if governments took the lead in having their large beaurocratic workforces work from home instead of driving into the office just to log onto their computers?
    Billions of dollars saved in gas costs, billions of tonnes of pollutants avoided per year, Zero dollars spent on exotic hydrogen fuel cell technology and nuclear power plants.

  • avatar

    The study demonstrates that while electric cars have the lowest ‘tail-pipe’ emissions, they cannot attain the same travel ranges or top speeds as conventional cars.

    However, so much automotive travel, even here in the US, requires just a small fraction of the range/speed of conventional cars. Here in the US where multi-car households are common, having an EV for the short haul trips and an ICE for the long hauls is entirely practical. And in Europe where many trips are short haul but multi-cars are less common, ICE rentals can fill the need for long hauls. Apartment dwellers who park on the street in either locale will stick w/ICE due to the inability to securely recharge. But if even just 25% of passenger miles were EV instead of ICE, the benefits would be great.

    • 0 avatar

      This is the thing I don’t follow.

      If you have 2 compact cars, that are identical except for the powertrain, one being Diesel and the other being electric/battery powered:

      Given current technology (and really, it will take several leaps to change this), a gallon of Diesel contains much more potential energy than it’s weight in Battery.

      So, the EV will weigh more than the diesel, to achieve any meaningful distance. It takes more energy to move a heavier object, no matter the distance travelled, plus the energy lost in transition. When you burn coal, or whatever, at an electricity plant, 100% of that energy from burning does not make it into the battery in your car. Also, 100% of the energy in the battery does not make it to the electric motor, etc.

      I’m just not seeing where a coal powered, heavy battery transporting EV is going to provide great benefits over “skipping the middleman”, so to speak.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      cmus: you’re forgetting the key issue – efficiency. A car diesel’s efficiency varies between zero (at idle) to low thirties percent. Electric motors are at about 90%. at all speeds. Huge difference. That’s why they’re being built.

  • avatar

    The “tail pipe” is the smokestack on the big coal burning electric plant.


    “The study demonstrates that while electric cars have the lowest ‘tail-pipe’ emissions, they cannot attain the same travel ranges or top speeds as conventional cars.”

  • avatar


    Well that is one cool-looking antique Vauxhall

    Arriva takea Wiz???? I thought it was an Oy Vey

  • avatar

    Off topic, but my first thought seeing that photo was that it should probably have been considered terrorism that GM sold that car overseas. Second thought was imagining the insane carnage of those to cars hitting each other in a head-on 20 mph crash. It would make the Brilliance BS4 look like an ’84 S-Class by comparison.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    It won’t happen.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Europe’s reliance on coal and gas-power for electricity generation negatively impacts the carbon footprint of EVs.”

    Sure it negatively impacts it but the bottom line is the EV still has a smaller carbon footprint. What about all the pollution refineries, oil tankers, transport trucks and gas stations add. What if you eliminated all the oil changes done every day in the US. Don’t need to change oil on an EV. What’s the effect there on pollution.

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