Electric car sales are rising, but so are emissions. What’s going on?

More of us are buying electric cars than ever before, but our emissions are still going up. Falling diesel and rising SUV sales are to blame

Here’s a misleading statistic: UK electric car sales doubled in 2019. According to market insights firm LMC Automotive, battery electric vehicles made up 1.6 per cent of UK sales in 2019, about double the year before. But this doesn’t mean the UK’s automotive emissions are heading in the right direction. The reality is far more murky.

Last year, the average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of cars sold in the UK rose for the third year in a row. And for every electric car purchased in 2019, we bought 37 SUVs. Our growing interest in bigger, heavier vehicles, plus the sudden decline in diesel car sales, has pulled the UK further away from its looming transport emissions targets.

It’s a big step backwards, at exactly the wrong moment. The average CO2 emissions per kilometre for UK cars now stands at 127.9 grams – well past the EU’s new target of 95g of CO2 per kilometre for new cars. If auto manufacturers don’t hit the target, they’ll be hit with big fines.

“It’s going to be a tough couple of years,” says Al Bedwell, head of powertrain forecast at LMC. “At the moment the gap between where CO2 is now and where it needs to be at the end of next year, for some car makers, is pretty big. So there’s a real dilemma.” Car brands may need to start selling electric vehicles at a loss in order to meet the goals, he says. “There is definitely a risk that some of them will miss the target and will end up paying quite big fines to the commission.”

Read more: Wired

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