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The Electric Vehicle in the Climate Change Race: Tortoise, Hare or Both?

The Electric Vehicle in the Climate Change Race: Tortoise, Hare or Both?

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Published by Ifri Energie
A fairly comprehensive paper detailing the advantages and disadvantages of Electric Vehicles in the race against climate change.
A fairly comprehensive paper detailing the advantages and disadvantages of Electric Vehicles in the race against climate change.

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Published by: Ifri Energie on Apr 15, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/20/2011

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 ______________________________________________________________________ 
 
The Electric Vehiclein the Climate Change Race
Tortoise, Hare or Both?
 
 __________________________________________________________________ 
Maïté de BONCOURT
January 2011
.
NNootteeddeell
IIffrrii 
Gouvernance européenne
et éoolitiue de lénerie
 
 
 
The Institut français des relations internationales (Ifri) is a research center anda forum for debate on major international political and economic issues.Headed by Thierry de Montbrial since its founding in 1979, Ifri is a non-governmental and a non-profit organization.As an independent think tank, Ifri sets its own research agenda, publishing itsfindings regularly for a global audience.Using an interdisciplinary approach, Ifri brings together political and economicdecision-makers, researchers and internationally renowned experts to animateits debate and research activities.With offices in Paris and Brussels, Ifri stands out as one of the rare Frenchthink tanks to have positioned itself at the very heart of European debate.
The opinions expressed in this text are the responsibility of the author alone 
.
 
ISBN: 978-2-86592-868-2 © All rights reserved, Ifri, 2011
Website: 
 
Ifri-BruxellesRue Marie-Thérèse, 211000
 –
Brussels
 –
B
ELGIUM
 Tel:
 
+32
 
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238
 
51
 
10Fax:
 
+32
 
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Ifri27, rue de la Procession75740 Paris Cedex 15
 –
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RANCE
 Tel: +33 (0)1 40 61 60 00Fax: +33 (0)1 40 61 60 60Email: ifri@ifri.org 
 
 
1 © Ifri
Executive Summary 
Europe is seeking ways to decrease the growing negative impact ofpassenger cars on climate, currently responsible for up to 12% oftotal EU CO
2
emissions. After biofuels in the nineties and hydrogen in2000, the new answer to climate change appears to be electric. Butcontrary to many marketing messages, electric cars are not zeroemissions cars. They will not necessarily contribute to actual CO
2
 emission reductions before 2020 and even then, not in every country.In EU Member States where the power sector is based on coal, theycould actually make things worse. In others, bad management of thecharging function could increase peak load requirements and causeinvestments in fossil-fuel-fired power plants. Finally, electric vehiclesand related costs are very high. Not only does this cast doubts on theextent and timing of their eventual market breakthrough, but it mayalso mean that their CO
2
tone abatement cost is high.Nonetheless, for the longer term, CO
2
emissions fromconventional vehicles can only be reduced to a certain extentwhereas the potential for electric vehicles plugged into adecarbonised electricity grid approaches zero. If electric cars are tohelp to reduce CO
2
emissions significantly in the future, Europeneeds to start now to develop this promising mitigation tool. There isin theory almost no constraint on the electric vehicle becoming a
“zero emission vehicle”, while
conventional car will always have toburn fuel.
Main Findings 
This paper finds that drawing firm conclusions on the real CO
2
 savings potential of electric vehicles belongs to the myth of Sisyphus.We roll the heavy ball of electric vehicle technology work up the hill,only to have lack of progress in power generation, infrastructures,batteries, prices all or individually send it rolling back down: thenumber of variables bearing on the CO
2
abatement outcome isimpressive, statistics often incomplete, methodologies for assessingnet CO
2
emissions unclear, and circumstances vary greatly fromplace to place.This paper also demonstrates that results of CO
2
savingsstudies cannot either be generalized to the entire European Union.Based on market forecasts for the state-of-the-art in powerproduction, it appears that the electric vehicle is not a substantiveway of reducing CO
2
as compared to other car technologies, andsurely not a cost effective one. Even in some countries, such asFrance where the electric car could be a medium term solution,several challenges have first to be addressed.This paper concludes that CO
2
abatement is not currently themain driver behind the push for electric vehicles, at least at theEuropean Level or in particular in such countries as Germany orPoland. The support for electric vehicles can be seen for now to be asmuch or more an industrial rather than a climate change policy.Introduced in an sustainable system, the electric car could

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