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FCA Says Accelerating Electric Car Sales Will Endanger Planet

FCA Says Accelerating Electric Car Sales Will Endanger Planet.

“Before we assume electric vehicles are the ultimate answer, we need to consider the environmental impact of the entire cradle-to-grave lifecycle, particularly the source of the electricity,”

Electric cars are more of a threat to the planet than a potential saviour, and governments should stop forcing them on to the buying public, said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Government action to spur electric car sales prematurely, without first making sure the source of their energy has been cleaned up, will increase the production of CO2 to dangerous levels and endanger the planet, according to Marchionne.

Marchionne said electric cars are said to be more environmentally friendly than internal combustion engine (ICE) powered cars, but the “cradle-to-grave” impact of battery power produces a different result.

Meanwhile, ICE cars should be made more efficient and clean using more natural gas as a fuel.

Marchionne made the remarks in a speech to the Italian University of Trento where he received an honorary degree. His thoughts come as the automotive industry gears itself up for what the conventional wisdom suggests is a massive wave of electric car buying and pressure mounts to end the sale of ICE cars completely.

Recently, France said it wants to ban the sale of ICE cars by 2040, and was quickly joined by Britain. German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the recent election campaign which she won, was thought to be considering the idea. Her main election rival, the Social Democrat Party, said in the campaign that if it won it would seek a European Union (E.U.) quota of electric cars to force their use.

Already many European governments subsidize electric car and plug-in hybrid sales. Germany offers 4,000 euros ($4,700) if you buy an all electric vehicle (EV) or a fuel cell one, and 3,000 euros ($3,500) for a plug-in hybrid. France offers up to 10,000 euros ($11,700) if you trade in an old diesel or 6,300 euros ($7,300) for an EV purchase. Oil rich socialist Norway adds things like the right to enter city centres and the use bus lanes and parking.

Massive show
The Frankfurt Auto Show last month presented a massive show of all things electric. But Fiat, and its Jeep and Alfa Romeo subsidiaries, failed to exhibit at the show, and cynics may think this might have been because of FCA’s slow embrace of electric power. During his speech, Marchionne remarked that for every little Fiat 500 electric car it sells in the U.S., it loses about $20,000.

“Doing this on a large scale would, of course, be economic masochism at its extreme,” Marchionne said.

“Before we assume electric vehicles are the ultimate answer, we need to consider the environmental impact of the entire cradle-to-grave lifecycle, particularly the source of the electricity,” Marchionne said.

He said about 2/3rds of global electricity is produced using fossil fuel, with coal at around 40% the worst in terms of pollution.

Presumably he meant carbon dioxide (CO2) not the actual chemical nasties involved in the emissions.

“The total amount of electricity produced globally has more than doubled over the last 15 years, pushing usage of fossil fuels in tonnage terms to alarmingly high levels. Even if electrification is being widely pushed often for political reasons – as the solution that will save the planet, the reality is a little different.”

“The carbon emissions linked to electric cars, where generation is coal based are, in the best scenario, equivalent to an average gasoline-powered vehicle,” Marchionne said.

He pointed to research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology which concluded electric vehicles represent a threat to the environment, which in terms of global warming, is nearly twice that of traditional vehicles. 

“Lessons from the Global Auto Industry”

A book published last year “Lessons from the Global Auto Industry” by Holweg & Oliver pointed to the fact that you can’t assume electric cars are necessarily any cleaner than ICE ones, with the source of electricity being crucial.

“Economically, electric vehicles are considerably more expensive to buy than traditionally-powered vehicles, and there are justifiable concerns over the life-cycle, range and recharging lead-times all of which make electric vehicles less attractive to many buyers”. 

“EVs may be zero emission during use, their environmental benefit diminishes when the CO2 emissions inherent in producing grid electricity are taken into account and when emissions associated with their production and disposal are factored in.”

The book compared the CO2 emissions of the hybrid Toyota Prius (107 g/km), the EV Nissan Leaf (111 g/km) and a VW Golf gasoline engine (121 g/km).

“This short comparison highlights a fundamental problem with electric vehicles: their well-to-wheel emissions – considering the CO2 emissions of the fuel production, as well as vehicle usage – are highly dependent on the carbon intensity of the electricity that is used to charge their batteries. On the current U.K. energy mix, there is virtually no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In France, where electricity is largely generated from nuclear power plants, emissions are a quarter of the levels in the U.K. In China, where much of the electricity is generated from lignite, emissions are more than double for electric cars, at an estimated 278 g/km,” the book said.

Christopher Booker
British environment author and iconoclast Christopher Booker put it this way in a recent column in the London Daily Mail.

“It was always make-believe that electric cars save anything like the amount of CO2 claimed for them, not just because most of their electricity came from fossil fuels, but because so much more CO2 is emitted in the process of making them in the first place,” Booker said.

Marchionne, in his speech, said before electric vehicles can become ubiquitous, energy must be made cleaner.

“Forcing the introduction of electric vehicles at a global level, without first resolving the issue of how to produce clean energy, represents a major threat to the very existence of the planet,” Marchionne said.

“The introduction of electric vehicles should be done without the imposition of regulatory requirements and while continuing to benefit from other technologies.”

He concluded with an appeal to make more use of technology to enhance ICE engines.

“Clearly it would be better to focus on improving traditional engines and expanding the use of alternative fuels, particularly natural gas, which, in terms of extraction and physical properties, is currently the cleanest and most virtuous,” Marchionne said.


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One Response to FCA Says Accelerating Electric Car Sales Will Endanger Planet

  1. MICHAEL NUTT October 25, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

    Stimulating and thoughtful article. Well-written. Discussion of this topic should be more widespread.

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