Carbon dioxide emissions from plug-in hybrid vehicles are as much as two and a half times higher than official tests, according to new research.
Transport & Environment (T&E) and Greenpeace researchers analysed a database of real-world emissions from hybrid vehicles and found that rather than emitting the supposed 44g of CO2 per kilometre, most hybrids are in fact emitting over two and a half times this level.
According to T&E, this is because the cars are frequently not charged by their owner, or because the car does not drive using only the battery even when it is in the supposed ‘zero-emission mode.’
Manufacturers of hybrid vehicles advertise the vehicle as being capable of zero-emissions in urban driving.
However, research by T&E has revealed that this is virtually impossible, even for short distances on a regular basis.
The UK government is currently consulting on the plan to phase out the sale of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars.
T&E has learned that due to pressure from carmakers, the government may continue to allow the sale of hybrid vehicles once the ban comes into force.
Over the lifetime of the vehicle, a new hybrid vehicle in 2020 will emit 28 tonnes of CO2, compared to a petrol or diesel car that will emit 39 and 41 respectively.
In comparison, a new battery-electric car will emit about 3.8 tonnes from the electricity it uses over its lifetime.
Therefore the environmental campaigners have firmly said that the government should not be treating hybrid vehicles as an exception.
They have also highlighted that a phase-out date alone is not sufficient and that the government must also regulate the car industry to increase sales of zero-emission cars.
They have said that this regulation must include penalties for failing to meet targets.
According to the report: ‘A date without a supporting regulation is greenwash.’
Greenpeace UK’s head of politics Rebecca Newsom said: ‘Plug-in hybrids are the car industry’s wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem a much more environmentally friendly choice but false claims of lower emissions are a ploy by car manufacturers to go on producing SUVs and petrol and diesel engines.
‘It’s great that the Government is considering bringing the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles forward to 2030, doing so is one of the most important things the Government can do now to help tackle the climate emergency.
‘But ministers mustn’t be duped by plug-in hybrids when making this critical decision. It’s imperative that they are included in the 2030 ban, and that support is provided to enable workers to transition to electric vehicle manufacturing.’
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders commented on the report: ‘There will always be a difference between lab tests and real-world use but this report is flawed, not least because it uses figures from an emissions test regime that government and industry abandoned two years ago in favour of a more robust and realistic WLTP test.
‘However, even the report’s assumed figures show plug-in hybrid vehicles provide more than a 30% overall reduction in emissions compared to petrol or diesel. Hybrid vehicles also provide a flexibility few other technologies can yet match with extended range for longer, out of town journeys, and battery power in urban areas, reducing emissions and improving city air quality.’
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