Large car manufacturers lobbied in Brussels for years to keep CO2 emission standards down – with some success. The standard to be met until 2015 is set at 130 grams per kilometre. After that, however, the car companies will not get away so easily. By 2020 the average CO2 emission from new vehicles may not exceed 95 grams per kilometre. This standard is virtually unachievable for the current generation of petrol and diesel engines. Manufacturers must therefore invest in cleaner combustion engines – which they are already doing – or switch to electric cars – which they are also doing.
This is just one of the factors currently stimulating the accelerating development of electric cars. Last year’s high oil prices and increasing concerns about oil dependency have led governments to implement fiscal measures to encourage electric transport. The ever louder call to combat climate change is also benefiting the prospects of the electric car.
Electric cars are not just a threat to conventional petrol and diesel cars, they also seem to have the advantage over biofuels and hydrogen. Biofuels offer limited environmental benefits and are seen as competing with the food chain. Hydrogen cars are still too expensive and the infrastructure needed is too complex. Large oil companies such as Shell, which are focussing their efforts on biofuels and hydrogen as alternatives to oil, therefore seem to be headed for a major problem. No doubt the most significant development in the market today is that the large car manufacturers seem to have finally embraced the electric car. Until recently most were hesitant to go electric, but that is not the case anymore.