Electric cars 'not the whole answer'

UK engineers are warning the government that it must invest as much in other low-carbon vehicle technologies as it does in electric cars if it is to meet its emissions targets.

In a new report, 'Low Carbon Vehicles: Driving the UK’s Transport Revolution', the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) says that emission targets cannot be met by electric-charged vehicles alone – and equal investment must be made in technologies such as hydrogen, hybrids and biofuels. With the right investment and planning, IMechE believes engineers could create cars that emit a mere 30g/km CO2 by 2050 – a target which they want the current government to use instead of its 100g/km of CO2 by 2020.

The report's authors argue that such a target is technically achievable and necessary to compensate for increasing fleet size and mileage. However, they declare that society must also play a part by modifying the way in which we plan our travel requirements.

In his 2006 report, Lord Stern predicted that to get atmospheric CO2 down to 500 parts per million (ppm) would cost the UK 1 per cent of its GDP (this now stands at 2 per cent GDP or £28bn a year). In April, the government promised just £1bn of this target for all ‘green’ schemes.

Richard Folkson, chairman of IMechE’s Automotive Division, commented: “This report has been written because we have felt the government has given us no choice – they seem to be saying it must be electric cars and we, as engineers, are being forced to go down that route. We are telling the government to set the targets but to leave the engineers to figure out how it can be done – and electric cars alone will not be the answer.”

The report makes recommendations to government and industry, which includes introducing the £5,000 proposed subsidy for electric and hybrid cars as early as 2010.

The IMechE believes a 30g CO2 figure is achievable if this target is set immediately. The report adds: “This will allow sufficient time for industry to plan and develop the technologies, thereby helping to secure a successful future for the UK automotive industry (which currently employs 850,000 people and has a turnover of £50bn.”

The report’s five recommended technologies are hybrid, fuel cell, hydrogen, battery-only electric cars – and advanced petrol and diesel.


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