Thursday, April 02, 2009

Electric cars not zero emission

Mitsubishi i MiEV Mitsubishi are demonstrating their i MiEV electric car in Australia and have invited me for a test drive. I have already driven an Australian made electric car. The i MiEV is an electric version of the Mitsubishi i small car. The invitation referred to the i MiEV as a zero drive-time emissions
electric vehicle. This is an interesting, very precise description. The issue is that the electric car does not emit CO2, but generating the electricity to charge the car may do so. Most electricity in Australia is generated from burning coal, which produces CO2 pollution (especially Victorian brown coal). If the car is recharged from this coal sourced electricity, then it cannot be reasonably described as a zero emissions vehicle. However, it is technically correct to qualify this with "drive-time" to indicate that while you are driving the car it emits no CO2. This is a distinction which the general public are unlikely to understand and Mitsubishi need to be careful they do not make misleading statements about the green credentials of the car.

From a public policy point of view there is not a strong case for electric cars in Australia. If you recharged the car using renewable energy, the emissions would be less. But little petrol cars are very fuel efficient. The nation, the environment and the car owner might be better off with a small conventional powered car. The money saved over buying an electric car could be spent on renewable energy for use at home. With larger cars a diesel engine, natural or LPG gas might be a better option than electric. Until there are reasonably priced sources of renewable energy there may be only a very limited role for the electric car in Australia.

No comments: