Under the current EU emissions trading system, increased use of electric cars would actually boost CO2 emissions and oil consumption, according to the Environmental Transport Association (ETA).
Its new report finds that while there are significant potential environmental benefits to be had from a switch to electric vehicles, these were utterly dependent on how electricity was generated, energy taxed and CO2 emissions regulated.
ETA Director Andrew Davis said: "Whilst the report is not intended to dampen enthusiasm for electric vehicles, their introduction should not be viewed as a panacea; significant changes to the way we produce and tax power are needed before we will reap any benefits."
According to the report, electric cars powered by wind or solar energy are obviously superior, but if the electricity comes from coal, hybrids perform better.
The implication of the EU emissions trading system is that plug-in electric cars wouldn't increase CO2 emissions because the power sector is covered by the scheme. But if the scheme remains unchanged, says ETA, more sales of electric cars are likely to result in higher overall CO2 emissions and oil consumption. Existing loopholes in the emissions trading scheme need to be closed and the cap further tightened, it says.
The report says that the most certain way to promote electric-powered transport is to tighten long-term CO2 standards for cars to 80 g/km by 2020 and 60 g/km by 2025, while at the same time increasing fuel taxes.
Road tax exemption and grants for electric cars should be abolished, it says, sternly; electric cars should be rewarded for their energy efficiency, not for moving emissions from exhaust pipes to power station chimneys.