Boris Johnson has just announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Similarly, leaders across the rich world, including Joe Biden, are promising lavish carrots to energise the market for electric cars along with sticks to outlaw petrol cars. Unfortunately, electric cars will achieve only tiny emissions savings at a very high price.
Electric cars are certainly fun, but they aren't the technology that governments should be betting on reducing emissions.
Electric cars are recharged on electricity that almost everywhere is significantly fossil-fuel based. Comparing electric and petrol, the International Energy Agency estimates the electric car will save six tons of CO2 over its lifetime, assuming global average electricity emissions. Even if the electric car has a short range and its battery is made in Europe mostly using renewable energy, its savings will be at most 10 tons.
We need a reality check. First, politicians should stop writing huge cheques just because they believe electric cars are a major climate solution. Second, there is a simpler solution. The hybrid car saves about the same amount of CO2 as an electric car over its lifetime. Third, climate change doesn’t care about where CO2 comes from. Personal cars are only about 7 per cent of global emissions, and electric cars will only help a little.
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