EU norm would see sub-two liter vehicle fuel consumption by 2030

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An electric vehicle charging station. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

A plan approved by the European Commission sees that vehicles with internal combustion engine coming into the market in 2030 can only emit half of the carbon dioxide they do now. Since this is unrealistic according to scientists, car manufacturers should turn their attention to electric vehicles.

The production of electric vehicles is also not a simple task and manufacturers would require significantly more resources to produce batteries. This also means establishing new mines and higher battery price, ERR's radio news reports.

The European Commission has initiated a plan with the goal of halving carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. In addition, the sales of internal combustion engine vehicles will be forbidden starting in 2035.

Ministries in Estonia are now awaiting feedback from parties involved to see how realistic the plan actually is.

Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) electronic energy and engineering professor Argo Rosin told ERR that the European Commission's plan to drop internal combustion engines in the next decade is ill-considered. "The plan provides more questions than answers. If the commission's plan is actually seen through, we can only use hybrid or electric vehicles," Rosin said.

Estonian Association of Car Sales and Service Companies (AMTEL) CEO Arno Sillat said that cars can consume a maximum of 1.8 liters of fuel per 100 km in 2030. Only then would the car meet the new norm, which is 45 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.

"In practice, there are no cars with such internal combustion engines in the world. They exist in lab conditions, but such a car weighing a ton does not drive around in traffic. Plug-in hybrids just fit the new norm limit, it is likely the battery capacity will be increased. But regular hybrids unfortunately do not meet the requirement, their capacity is around 90 g/km at the moment, so the emissions need to be halved there, as well," Sillat said.

Argo Rosin noted that there is currently no agreed methodology for calculating electric car emissions. "If an electric vehicle uses Norwegian hydro energy, the car's emissions are almost zero, but if the car drives using electricity produced from oil and coal, the emissions cannot be zero," Rosin said.

Electric cars make up around 2-3 percent of all cars sold in Estonia. Data from the Transport Administration shows that there were 1,974 electric cars registered in Estonia in May. Regular hybrids make up a third of sold vehicles, but plug-in hybrids are not popular in Estonia as their price range is similar to that of regular electric cars.

Purchases of plug-in hybrid cars also do not receive state support in Estonia, because Finland's experience showed that people prefer to use gas instead of having to plug in their car.

Professor Rosin said cars will become more expensive in the future. He added that it is possible to drop electric car prices if new saving technologies are found, for example. "But they will not get much cheaper, it is likely that internal combustion engines will be taxed more heavily instead. So electric car usage will be cheaper than internal combustion engine vehicles in terms of running costs," Rosin said.

The professor noted that the future is unpredictable and exciting in technological terms.

Arno Sillat said car manufacturing is moving in two different directions. "One is cheaper electric cars that can drive 250-300 kilometers on small batteries. If you are after a longer radius, however, you will pay a significantly higher price. We can increase the battery, could also get 1,000 km out of it, but just the battery itself would weigh more than a ton. To reduce the weight, carbon bodies should be used. A car like that costs €250,000. So clearly not a family car. There is no solution today," Sillat explained.

The hopes for a price drop for electric cars has not taken place, either. "Six years ago, they hoped that if the first so-called electric car market norm would be in force in Europe, the prices have almost equalized and the technical indicators would also be equal. Reality is actually different in 2021," the AMTEL head noted.

Perhaps there will be breakthroughs in technology still, Sillat hoped. In that case, electric cars would be much cheaper and there would no questions about the European Commission plan.

"If such technologies are not invented, there will be a boom for internal combustion engine vehicles before 2035 and these cars can be used for another 15 years," Sillat added.

Argo Rosin said the transition to electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles can affect the likeliness of people in the middle and lower classes being able to afford an expensive car.

The professor added that there are currently no substantive studies that show the socio-economic effects of increased electricity consumption and that studies do not consider the environmental effects of resource sourcing and the use of child labor in third countries.

The EU must provide clear answers for how the transition will be compensated for. "Life will get quite expensive, this will cause much confusion and conflict in society," Rosin noted.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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