A latest report has claimed that an increase in electric cars is likely to lead to more electricity production from coal, gas and nuclear plants, without necessarily reducing oil demand for conventional cars

Putting more electric cars on the road may increase CO2 emissions, three leading environmental lobby groups said on Monday — issuing a warning to the European Union as it prepares to support the new technology.

Electric cars are seen as a way for European car producers to boost their green credentials and develop a technology that would allow them to keep ahead of the competition. European governments, in turn, hope this would allow them to reverse a trend of job cuts in what is currently an ailing industry.

However, a report by Dutch consultancy CE Delft, backed by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport & Environment, claims that “under current policies, an increase in (electric cars) is likely to lead to more electricity production from coal, gas and nuclear plants, without necessarily reducing oil demand for conventional cars.” The three groups call for the abolition of so-called super-credits in the EU’s laws on car emissions, which allow manufactures to count electric cars as zero-emission vehicles, helping them meet overall pollution targets for their entire model line-up.

Unless current rules are changed, the report claims, increasing sales of electric cars “may then lead to reduced efforts to improve the energy efficiency of conventional (...) cars with the result that (they) will probably not reduce oil consumption and CO2 emissions in the transport sector.” EU industry ministers are set to meet on Tuesday in San Sebastian, Spain, to approve an action plan for the development of electric vehicles. The initiative was presented in January as a top priority for Spain’s EU presidency, scheduled to run until June 30.

The CE Delft report says that CO2 emissions over the entire car production chain — the so-called ‘well-to-wheel’ cycle — would increase if electric vehicles were to be powered by lignite-derived electricity.

They would fall “significantly” if gas-fired power plants were used instead, and be reduced to “near zero if carbon-free renewable energy (were to be) used.” The environmental groups, therefore, want the EU and national governments to make sure electric cars are charged using electricity produced from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

To achieve this, they suggest fitting ‘smart meters’ that would automatically recognize ‘renewable energy’ to every electric car.

“We need smart electric vehicles that interact with smart electricity grids so cars can charge up on green power. Dump electric vehicles plugged into a dump electricity grid would only add demand for coal and nuclear power and drive us away from a sustainable energy future,” said Greenpeace’s Franziska Achterberg.