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Rapid improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency using petrol and diesel, and many new ultra-efficient hybrid vehicles. Even if we only saw 30% energy saving in 30% of vehicle miles driven in developed nations over the next decade, we would save at least 9% in motoring energy use (at today’s rate of miles driven a year). That would be the same as cutting today’s global emissions by more than 1%.
Greening of the world car fleet is happening rapidly. JD Power Consultancy estimates that a third of emission cuts by 2020 will come from improving petrol and diesel engines, and 14% from miles driven in electric vehicles.
If all vehicles in America were hybrids, and half were plug-in hybrids (larger batteries), US imports of oil would fall by 8 million barrels a day or by 80% of daily consumption.
Electric vehicles are one of the most important ways to reduce motoring costs, reduce carbon use in transport, improve air quality and reduce global warming. Expect battery-powered vehicles to be 10% of the market by 2020. Models like Nissan’s Leaf and Chevrolet’s Volt have led the way.
Much of government economic stimulus packages for the auto industry have been linked to green tech, of which a huge proportion is things like battery technology.
16 million new cars a year are sold in EU alone (2.4m in UK). If we assume that up to 25% of the smallest car market could be electric cars within 10 years, that would mean over 1 million sold each year, at an average cost of EU11,000. Electric car sales would then be worth at least EU11bn a year in the EU.
Electric cars can produce much lower emissions than burning fuel in mobile engines, but it all depends on how the electricity is generated. Burning petrol or diesel in a small, mobile engine can be inefficient compared to the most efficient coal-fired power generators. When petrol is used to power a vehicle, only 15-20% of the energy is usually captured to drive the car forward, compared to 40% in making electricity in an efficient coal power station.
It is true that a small amount of power is lost between power station and battery, and 20% of electricity put into the car is lost in heat (batteries and other components). But even when we include these things, we can see that “coal-powered” electric cars are likely to be better users of fossil fuels than diesel or petrol vehicles.
Where wind, solar, waves, tide or nuclear power is used to charge batteries, electric cars have zero emissions. Either way, air quality improves dramatically in cities as the use of electric vehicles increases. Owners can also save a huge amount of vehicle tax on petrol or diesel since taxation is far lower on electricity. It typically costs only 1-2 cents a mile in electricity.