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It wasn’t long before the war of words began on the efficiency of electric cars and their impact on the environment. Today’s comments from controversial author Clive Matthew-Wilson paint a gloomy picture of electric cars as “often less efficient and more polluting than the petrol cars they replace“.

The report released today, titled The Emperor’s New Car, goes into technical details outlining why on our current power system electrical cars are not the environmentally friendly alternatives we have all been waiting for. Some of you may have heard of Matthew-Wilson as he is the author of the car buyers’ Dog & Lemon Guide.

“The car industry is selling a false image of efficient, environmentally-friendly electric cars powered by ‘green’ energy. In reality, electric cars often aren’t very efficient and aren’t very green. Claims that electric cars are ‘emissions-free’ are simply a lie; they merely transfer the pollution from the road to the power station. Not only will electric cars not reduce emissions, they may actually increase emissions, because burning coal to make electricity to power an electric car creates more pollution than if you simply powered the same vehicle using petrol.” Matthew-Wilson says.

We do have to wonder though, how can one really blame the car companies if they are not the electricity suppliers? Surely the only logical solution to this would be the creation of emission free sources of electricity, e.g. solar, wind or nuclear power or hydroelectric generation.

The Emperor’s New Car picks on the Tesla electric sports car more than all.  “The Tesla is actually not very efficient at all. Most of Tesla’s publicity focuses on the efficiency of its electric motor. What they don’t tell you is that its batteries are heavy, inefficient and that Teslas are frequently powered by electricity from highly polluting power stations.

The report emphasis our reliance on coal for power generation and that an increase in electricity demands caused by a wave of new electric cars will only increase our need for ‘dirty power’.

“Renewable energy sources may be growing fast, but they’re still a tiny percentage of the world’s electricity supply and they’ll stay that way for the foreseeable future, because renewable energy sources tend to be far more expensive than fossil fuels.”

An interesting comparison was done between the Tesla electric sports car and a petrol-powered Lotus Elise sports car (which is what the Tesla is based on).

“In four of the five countries we surveyed, the Tesla electric car was less efficient and more polluting than its petrol sibling. In Australia, on average, a Tesla would require over 25% more energy than the Elise, and the Tesla would emit more than twice the pollution.”

Interestingly New Zealand was the odd country out given most of the Kiwi’s electricity is produced by hydroelectric generation. Nonetheless the infestracture would not be able to support a fleet of EVs and according to a New Zealand scientist coal power stations would be needed to meet increased power demands.

Furthermore the electric car revolution is going to get a kick start once China starts mass-producing electric cars that compare in price to conventional petrol or diesel cars, the report says. It then goes to criticise the Chinese manufacturing processes for using environmentally destructive materials and reliance on factories which use non-renewable and heavily polluting forms of energy.

The solution according to the author?

“There’s no quick fix to either the energy shortage or climate change. In the longer term, we’re all going to have to use less energy, and that means smaller houses, less plastic junk that we don’t really need and less wasted trips in our cars. Most of the world’s alternative energy industry is based on quick fixes to the current system. In reality, most of this technology either isn’t economic, doesn’t work, or simply doesn’t exist and isn’t going to exist anytime soon. It disturbs me to see politicians and business leaders on television promoting fantasy technology using fantasy economics. If we make decisions based on the wrong assumptions, we’re just going to make things worse.”

The current range of electric cars is growing. It would seem illogical to dismiss electric cars because their source of power is not produced efficiently. If the car industry does not invest in electric cars and future technologies what motivation will the power industry have to create clean energy?

CarAdvice is driving the Mitsubishi i-MiEV this coming Monday and will bring you a review of the vehicle.




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