Is electric cars the way to go?

At least one in ten vehicles on Scotland’s roads must be electric by 2020 if we are to achieve Scotland’s climate change targets, according to a new authoritative report published on the 25th May by WWF Scotland.

The environmental group called on the Scottish Government to show leadership by setting out its strategy for delivering this vision in their forthcoming Low Carbon Vehicle Action Plan.

The report, Watt Car?: the role of electric vehicles in Scotland’s low carbon future, examines the number of electric vehicles needed to achieve Scotland’s emission targets and the associated transport and energy implications. The report concludes that by 2020 we will need to replace at least 290,000 petrol-driven cars with electric vehicles (EVs) as well as reversing the projected increase in car use if the transport sector is to play its full part in tackling climate change. Failure to tackle the expected increase in car use would mean the total number of EVs required to meet the 2020 target shoots up to over 1.5 million by the same date.

Key findings from Watt Car? include:

1. If the transport sector is to make a proportionate contribution to our 2020 target of a 42 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases we will need to see at least 290,000 electric cars on the roads by this date. To meet this goal EVs must achieve 20 per cent of the new car sales market by 2020.

2. In order that EVs make the greatest impact towards the 2020 targets they must be seen as part of an overall package to stabilise road traffic levels and decarbonise the power sector by 2030.

3. The increased electricity demand resulting from a new fleet of EVs is relatively modest.
However, if we are to manage this increase so as to minimise the need for additional electricity generation and ensure EVs support the growth in renewables, the new demand must be fully integrated into a smart energy system.

Dr Sam Gardner, Climate Change Policy Officer at WWF Scotland said:

“If the transport sector is to play its full part in helping to meet our climate change targets there needs to be a real surge in the number of electric vehicles on Scotland’s roads. To help kick start this transformation the Scottish Government must set out a plan to support the roll out of electric vehicles in Scotland and as a first step commit to ensuring that the public sector fleet is 100 per cent electric by 2020. Government leadership is essential to drive the market and make the electric vehicle a common feature of our roads. In these times of tight public spending government action is required to realise the jobs potential of this new industry.

“However, electric vehicles are only one part of the change required in the transport sector and they are no silver bullet in our response to climate change. We must match future support for electric cars with far greater effort to reverse our current reliance on private vehicles. If we fail to tackle the yearly increase we see in the number of car miles driven, the efficiency savings from a new fleet of electric vehicles will be undermined.”

Paul Nelson, Managing Director of Allied Vehicles said:

“Responding to the climate change agenda presents both a major challenge and an exciting opportunity for the automotive sector. Allied Electric is tackling this head-on by developing a range of all-electric cars and light commercial vehicles.

“Producing zero emissions in operation, our vehicles will deliver major benefits for the environment in Scotland and throughout the UK. The project is also creating new engineering and manufacturing jobs here in Glasgow, which is another important plus point for the Scottish economy.”

Gordon McGregor, Energy and Environment Director at ScottishPower, said:

“The growth of electric vehicles will play a key role in the overall reduction of CO2 emissions in the UK and across the world, alongside the on-going decarbonisation of electricity generation. As CO2 emissions are increasingly reduced from the process of generating electricity, the environmental benefits of electric vehicles will only ever increase.

“The WWF report highlights the need for strong collaboration between Government and a wide range of industries in order for all of the hurdles to be overcome. Good progress is being made, and trial projects like the one we are working on in Glasgow with Allied Vehicles will help to take forward the momentum required for a widespread rollout of electric vehicles.”

Lawrence Berns, CEO of Axeon said:

“We warmly welcome this report which clearly shows that electric vehicles will be an essential part of tackling climate change. Axeon is Europe’s foremost producer of Lithium-ion battery packs for electric vehicles; our battery systems are designed and manufactured in Scotland to exacting automotive standards, drawing on many years of battery experience. Electric vehicle technology is here now and we urge the Scottish Government to support this growing industry, which has the potential both to tackle climate change and to create new jobs.”

Peter Singleton from SEPA said:

“SEPA welcomes this report as a timely input into the debate around how Scotland can begin to make measurable progress towards its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

“We are currently considering how to improve our performance and attain our March 2011 target of reducing emissions from our business mileage by 10%. In doing this we are aware of the challenges facing individuals and organisations when reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Although not highlighted in the report, realising significant reductions in greenhouse gases by moving away from traditional fossil fuels could also achieve greatly improved air quality in our urban environments. SEPA would be keen to support further research into the use of alternative fuels looking at public transport and heavy and light goods vehicles.”

WWF’s Dr Gardner added:

“The electric car is no longer some far flung future fantasy; it is appearing on forecourts around the world and will be parked in our garages and driveways in the next few years. This transformation must be supported by both the public and private sector to ensure it helps deliver a truly sustainable transport system for Scotland.”

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