More on EV targets

Nov 5, 2012 | Energy and Carbon, Environment | 0 comments

My last blog provoked some interest and was also featured on the Enviro-Solutions website. In summary, I suggested that the target set by Ireland of 10% of the car fleet to be EV (excluding plug-in hybrids) was totally pie in the sky. The evidence for this was that plug in hybrids out sold EVs in Ireland by 5:1 and therefore EVs were unattractive, only 121 EVs have been sold to date in 2012 and European EV production capacity would be insufficient.

I was asked by many readers how this compared to the UK. The Committee on Climate Change has recommended that government aims for 1.7 m EVs (which included plug in hybrids) by 2020. This is 5% of the UK car fleet.

I think before this discussion proceeds any further we need to make a distinction between the two main types of EV. UK terminology refers to BEV and PHEV. BEV is a Battery Electric Vehicle and has no supplementary fossil fuelled engine; examples include the Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe. These BEVs have zero tail pipe emissions but when they are plugged in to charge, there will be CO2 emissions from the electricity generation mix. The PHEV is a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle has, well as the battery, a fossil fuelled engine. Typical examples are the Vauxhall Ampera/Chevy Volt and the Toyota Prius. With the PHEV there is no limitation to driving, if the battery packs in you carry on using the engine. However, if journeys are short (as most journeys are), then the emissions will be the same as the BEV (provided that the PHEV user plugs in the car to recharge the battery). Despite the higher cost of PHEV, the public prefer them; in Ireland they out sell BEVs by 5:1 as previously mentioned, in the UK they outsell BEVs by 27:1.

Definitions out of the way, there are a few interesting things about the Committee on Climate Change’s statement. Firstly, that it is articulated as an aim rather than a target (missing an aim is not as bad as missing a target). However, of more interest is that the figure of 5% is half that of Ireland’s and, more importantly, the 5% also includes plug in hybrids. I think that this is further evidence that Ireland’s EV target is unattainable and need to be redefined now rather than nearer 2020. The UK aim of 1.7m vehicles has far more hope of being reached as it includes the consumer preferred EV, the hybrid.

It is possible that I might have to eat my words with the launch of the Renault Zoe at half the price of the Nissan Leaf. We will have to wait and see if thePHEV:BEV sales ratio changes.