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Electric Cars and CO2 Emissions: The European Dilemma

The level of CO2 emissions from electric cars depends on primary source of energy.

Published: 19-Mar-2010

PAPILLION, NE -- It was up to Spain –which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union- to declare the beginning of the electric car era when it launched its ambitious plan to revolutionize the transport sector, the top threat to meet binding climate change targets.
“The electric car was born today in Europe,” said Spanish Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian in early February during an informal ministerial meeting with his European counterparts. He also gloated of regional support and anticipated endorsement of the Spanish plan in a March 1 meeting.

Those plans quickly fizzled. Not only was the decision postponed at least until May, but skeptics questioned the wisdom of banking too much on the electric car.

The argument, which united the oil industry and environmental groups on the same side of the debate, is simple: electric cars will not be more climate-friendly than fossil fuel ones for well over a decade, but their mass distribution will surely be costly and could make Europe more dependent on foreign energy sources.

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The range limitations of most early electric cars will matter less in tightly packed urban areas, where the daily driving distance is likely to be much shorter than in the suburbs or rural areas.

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