How Green Are Green Cars?

Mon 23rd Nov 2020

Boris Johnson’s vision for the road to zero emissions was unveiled with plenty of headlines last week, but what do electric cars and plug-in hybrids really mean for the environment?

Well according to a timely report from Transport and Environment, the decision to give PHEVs a five-year stay of execution is the wrong one and that the hybrid option is contradicting green policies.

The research from T&E has found that far from being a greener option than petrol or diesel, the PHEVs are pumping out CO2, even when fully charged in optimal conditions. Using data provided by Emissions Analytics, a British company, T&E focused on three hybrid vehicles - the Volvo X60, the BMW X5 45e and the popular Mitusibishi Outlander PHEV - finding that in some cases the vehicles emitted 89 per cent more CO2 than advertised.

While PHEVs can provide lower emissions, the report found that many drivers simply do not recharge their vehicle and leave it to run off the combustion engine, which when you factor in a heavy battery means that they are burning more fuel than petrol and diesel engines.

“Plug-in hybrids are fake electric cars, built for lab tests and tax breaks, not real driving,” said Julia Poliscanova, senior director of clean vehicles at T&E

“Our tests show that even in optimal conditions, with a full battery, the cars pollute more than advertised. 

“Unless you drive them softly, carbon emissions can go off the charts. Governments should stop subsidising these cars with billions in taxpayers' money.”

PHEVs will be outlawed in 2035, and despite the criticism, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders believes that hybrids still have a big part to play in the future of British motoring.

“PHEVs provide flexibility, with the ability to drive in zero emission mode for typically 25 to 40 miles - more than ample given that 94 per cent of UK car journeys are less than 25 miles,” Hawes said.

“This makes PHEVs perfect for urban commutes while avoiding "range anxiety" over longer journeys, reducing emissions and improving air quality. 

“We can't comment on unverified, unregulated tests by commercial entities, but even these have found that PHEVs emit at least 25 to 45 per cent less CO2 than their pure ICE [Internal Combustion Engine] counterparts, and of course, they emit 100 per cent less when driven in battery mode.”