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Fossil Fuel Car Ban ‘Will Close Cheapest Route To Cutting CO2’

Local Transport Today

Banning the sale of fossil fuel cars and vans as a way of promoting battery electric vehicles is a high-cost strategy that will close the door to technological advances in greener internal combustion engines, an industry expert has warned. 

The Government consulted this spring on banning the sale of new cars and vans with an internal combustion engine (ICE) from 2035 or possibly earlier (LTT 06 Mar). The Committee on Climate Change has suggested 2030. 

The Prime Minister has proposed that the ban should apply to conventional ICEs and hybrid vehicles. This would restrict choice to only battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell vehicles running on hydrogen.

Gautam Kalghatgi criticises the policy in a paper published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation think tank. Kalghatgi is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Automotive Engineers, and a visiting professor at Oxford University. 

All available technologies, including ICEVs, BEVs, fuel-cell vehicles and alternative fuels are required to improve the sustainability of transport,” he says. “Banning the most common of these technologies, and the one with the most potential for improvement, namely ICEVs, is not sensible.”

BEVs are not zero emission when viewed on a lifecycle basis. “It takes more energy to manufacture a BEV than an internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV), because the manufacture of batteries is very energy intensive. In addition, the end-of-life recycling cost is higher for a BEV than for an ICEV. 

As a result, in the UK, only BEVs with small batteries have lower lifetime emissions than ICEVs. As battery size increases to enable bigger cars and longer range, the CO2 footprint of BEVs surpasses that of equivalent ICEVs, even if the electricity used is increasingly carbon-free. 

“Therefore, even converting all of the UK’s 37 million light duty vehicles (cars and vans) to battery power would not decarbonise the transport system to any great extent.” 

Increasing the number of BEVs in the UK to ten million from the current 100,000 would “at best save about four per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transport in the UK”, he estimates. 

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