The new report/briefing, titled Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) 2017, presents the view that progress towards the achievement of the goals (policy targets and objectives) in question has been “mixed” as of late in Europe.
The goals in question relate to emissions reductions, air pollution reductions, renewable energy usage, noise reductions, and the effect of the transport sector on biodiversity and the biological environment.
Amongst the findings of the report were provisional figures for transport sector greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 (excluding the maritime shipping sector) — figures which confirm a continued upward trend in emissions since 2014; with emissions during 2016 in Europe (across the EU-28) being some 25% higher than in 1990.
The report notes that while the official carbon dioxide emissions of new passenger cars and vans in 2016 were below 2021 and 2020 targets, respectively, “considerable” further cuts would need to be made over the next few years to meet further targets. (It should be noted here that a great deal of recent research has shown that official vehicle emissions ratings in Europe are largely fantasy.)
The press release for the report provides a bit more: “While sales of new diesel passenger cars have decreased in recent years, the share of diesel used in road transport (including for freight transport by heavy-duty vehicles) has continued to rise, amounting to more than 66% of total fuel sales in road transport in 2015, compared with 51% in 2000.
“Oil consumption by the transport sector will need to fall by more than two-thirds to meet the objective of reducing consumption by 70% by 2050 compared with 2008 levels.
“The share of renewable energy in transport in the EU rose from 6.7% in 2015 to 7.1% in 2016, lower than the 10% target set for 2020. Three Member States (Austria, Finland, and Sweden) have already reached the 10% goal.”
The report also acknowledges that progress to date on the reduction of environmental noise, and on air pollution, has been very limited.
Next month, the EEA will be releasing a related report, that one focused on the aviation and shipping sectors and associated environmental impacts and goals.
Some Plug-In Hybrids Can Cut Emissions As Much As Pure Electrics
A joint study by the highly respected Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research finds that plug-in hybrid cars with at least 36 miles of electric-only range (think Chevy Volt) are just as good at keeping carbon emissions out of the atmosphere as pure battery electric cars (think Chevy Bolt).
The debate rages among green car advocates, government regulators, and political leaders about whether a plug-in hybrid is a “real” electric car. The feeling in some quarters is that any car with a range-extending gasoline engine is like wearing brown shoes with a tuxedo. You can go that route, but it’s not quite right, is it?
The researchers gathered data about the performance of 49,000 battery electric cars and 73,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles in Germany and the US. The information came from fleet trials, auto manufacturers, and from a website that allowed drivers to manage and monitor their vehicles. The results of the study have been published by the journal Nature.
Patrick Jochem of KIT’s Institute for Industrial Production adds an interesting detail. “When taking into account that production of the far smaller batteries of plug-in hybrids is associated with less carbon dioxide emissions than production of the larger batteries of electric vehicles, their carbon dioxide balance is even better,” he says. “Moreover, hybrids can foster public confidence and prevalence of electric mobility, as they have the same range as cars with internal combustion engines, contrary to battery electric vehicles.”
Here’s another important consideration that the data cannot address. More plug-in hybrid cars on the road mean more drivers getting accustomed to plugging in their vehicles. Why is that important? Because many mainstream drivers still are not used to the idea. It’s a little weird and a little scary.
All new technology is greeted with suspicion at first. Think of the the townspeople carrying torches and pitch forks in Frankenstein. The more people who wrap their heads around the idea of cars with plugs, the sooner the EV revolution will be complete.
The takeaway from the study is that cars that call themselves plug-in hybrids but can hardly get to the grocery store and back without firing up their gasoline engines — cars like the BMW 330e, Audi A3 e-tron, and Ford C-Max Energi — really are poseurs unworthy of being called electric cars.
In reality, if the car you drive has enough battery range to meet your daily driving needs without using a drop of gasoline, then you are driving an electric car and can hold your head high. Go forth and spread the good word — the future is electric and you are part of that future.