Are electric vehicles as green as they’re painted?

Stuff asks which are the cleanest and dirtiest car brands in New Zealand?

. . .Actually, the car brand currently on sale in NZ with the lowest emissions of all is Tesla, which boasts an unbeatable CO2 output (or non-output?) of 0.0. Obviously that’s because they are fully electric, which means the only connection with CO2 these cars might have, would be from what emerges from any gas or coal-fired power stations that generate the electricity in the first place.

But, as so often in the climate change argument, this doesn’t give the whole picture. It counts only the emissions from running the car, what about the emissions in making it, in particular the battery?

A friend has recently returned from Africa where he saw a continual procession of fuel tankers making the journey from the coast to supply mines in the Congo so that cobalt and lithium can be exported to allow people in rich countries to buy electric cars to save the world.

If you take into account the emissions from the many thousands of kilometres those tankers travel and everything else involved in their manufacture and disposal when judging the CO2 output of electric and hybrid cars, would they still be as green as they’re painted?

I don’t know the answer to that question and it raises another: how can we know what is green and what is greenwash if only the emissions from running vehicles are quantified and not those from their manufacture to their eventual end?

The answer to those two questions is even more important now the government is proposing a ‘feebate’ scheme on the sale of new vehicles.

The Government’s proposal for a sweeping fuel-efficient vehicle policy is being criticised because it doesn’t apply to the majority of cars being sold.

It would only apply to newly-imported used and brand new light vehicles from 2021 onwards, and would only hit those vehicles when they are sold for the first time – taking in about only a quarter of vehicle sales.

School Strike 4 Climate NZ criticised the proposal and said all vehicle sales should be affected by fuel efficiency standards.

The “feebate” scheme wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything, instead using money gained by putting a fee on imported high-emissions cars in order to make imported hybrids, electric cars, and other efficient vehicles cheaper with a subsidy. . .

It wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything but who would it help and who would it hurt?

The proposed penalty on ‘gas guzzling’ vehicles is a painful, regressive tax, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Let’s be very clear: this is a tax on Otara vehicles to subsidise Teslas in Remuera.”

“Only a few, largely high-income, motorists will benefit from this subsidy, while many more low income motorists will have to choose between a nasty penalty or delaying the purchase of a new car. And as this tax leads driver to hold on to their existing vehicles for longer, we’ll miss out on improvements to safety and environmental standards.”

Older cars are less efficient and also not as safe as newer vehicles, but what’s the environmental impact from holding on to them longer?

Would spreading the emissions from making them over a longer period compensate for the emissions from driving them?

What about utes and trucks that are used for business and transporting goods and for which there are no hybrid or electric alternatives.?

“Successive Governments have already whacked motorists hard with hikes to petrol tax. Now Julie-Anne Genter is mixing it up with scheme to ‘take from the poor, give to the rich’.”

“Just because something is shrouded in environmental branding doesn’t make it any less nasty to the poor.”

Electric and hybrid cars cost less to run than petrol or diesel ones and newer vehicles are more efficient than older ones so  people who can’t afford newer, more expensive vehicles will be paying a bigger proportion of the fuel tax.

London has emission charges and diesel vehicles, including taxis, have to use AdBlue  to their fuel. When we were there recently we noticed the air was much cleaner than it had been several years earlier.

Clean air is to be encouraged but until the total lifetime emissions, not just from driving vehicles, but from their conception to their ultimate end, are quantified, we won’t know if the policy will make a positive difference or not to global CO2 emissions or not.

The emissions picture is a very complex one to which the ‘feebate’ policy, like so many other climate change ones, provides a simple answer but we don’t have enough information to know if it’s the right one.

The push towards electric vehicles raises two other questions: does our electricity generation and transmission have the capacity for a significant increase in electric vehicles?; and what will replace fuel taxes when the uptake of hybrid and electric vehicles reduces them to the point a replacement is required?

2 Responses to Are electric vehicles as green as they’re painted?

  1. adamsmith1922 says:

    Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind and commented:
    Your points echo ones I have made several times. We are not being presented with all the information

  2. michael Kidson says:

    I have been trying to make these points to Adams and Genter with LGOIA requests where applicable. All I got back was the confirmation that owners of PIEVs will be paying road user charges from end 2021. Only idealistic electioneering crap when asking about electricitry supplies and dealing with expected shortasges in the near future. They really have no concept of the implications of their policies….

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