Nations must go further and faster to phase out combustion engine cars, new analysis suggests
Europe must sell its final combustion engine car during the early 2030s if the EU is to meet its Paris Agreement goals, a new analysis by green NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) has estimated.
Several EU countries, such as the UK and France, have set 2040 as the deadline for ending sales of petrol and diesel cars. But today's report from T&E suggests the shift will have to happen far more rapidly across Europe to stay on track with climate targets.
Higher fuel taxes and road charges, coupled with car-sharing and growth in alternative transport modes, could help reduce car numbers, tackle congestion and make cities more liveable, the report argues.
But demand reduction measures alone will at most cut emissions by 28 per cent by 2050 it concludes, and as such it argues a shift to zero emission vehicles by 2035 "at the very latest" will be necessary to keep on track with decarbonisation goals.
According to T&E, Europe cannot rely on biofuels and synthetic fuels as alternatives to petrol and diesel, as they will be "nearly impossible" to produce cost-effectively art the scale required to power all of Europe's cars. At most, biofuels are likely to supply just 3.5 per cent of transport fuels in 2030, it contends.
Thomas Earl, data analyst at T&E, also said any remaining combustion engine cars still on Europe's roads by 2050 would need to be banned altogether.
"If we want to avoid dangerous climate change we need to shift the market for electric cars much faster than the proposed regulations," he said. "It is also imperative that the European Commission's upcoming decarbonisation strategy takes into account the carbon budgets of each sector to ensure we have adequate policy measures not to exceed them."
The reports comes on the same day as separate findings from the EU's European Environment Agency (EEA) attempts to again slay the myth that electric vehicles (EVs) result in high greenhouse gas emissions.
The report confirmed that a typical EV produces far less greenhouse gases and air pollutants across its entire lifecycle of production and use than a petrol or diesel car, even if it is reliant on power grids that are still dominated by fossil fuels.
Emissions are usually higher in the production phase of electric cars, the EEA report concludes, but these are more than offset by lower emissions during the use phase of the EV.
Taking into consideration the current EU energy mix of renewables and fossil fuels, the report estimates that greenhouse gases from the production and use of electric vehicles over their entire lifetime are about 17 to 30 per cent lower than the emissions of petrol and diesel cars.
Given the carbon intensity of the EU's electricity grid is set to decline in coming years, the life cycle emissions of a typical EV could be cut by at least another 73 per cent by 2050, the report calculates.
The EEA report also stressed electric cars deliver "clear benefits" for local air quality as they produce zero exhaust emissions at street level - although electric vehicles do still emit particles and dust from road, tyre, and break wear which are harmful to human health.
The paper also acknowledged the production of electric cars requires toxic and energy-intensive materials, including the extraction and processing of copper, nickel, and other raw materials. However, it suggested production impacts could be minimised by reusing and recycling of materials and parts, particularly batteries.
Preliminary EV sales data from the EEA show sales were up 51 per cent in 2017, with EVs making up 0.6 per cent of all new cars in the EU. Plug-in hybrid vehicle registrations also rose by 35 per cent, making up 0.8 per cent of registrations.
Dogged by fears over air pollution, the popularity of diesel vehicles continues to plummet, with petrol cars becoming more popular in 2017 than diesel for the first time since monitoring began in 2010.
But the share of renewable energy in transport - taking into account biofuels complying with sustainability criteria - is still well below the bloc's 10 per cent targets for 2020. So far, only Austria and Sweden have reached that threshold, according to the EEA. Meanwhile CO2 emissions for passenger cars in the EU were up 0.4 per cent in 2017, the first rise since 2017.
EVs are ever more popular, and their improving range and falling costs make them a viable alternative for internal combustion engine cars. But as today's reports show, their full-spectrum adoption remains dependent on more policy ambition and continued investment from governments and businesses alike.
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