11 Sep 2013   |   16 pages

The race to produce low-carbon cars

There are no shortage of initiatives throughout the European Union to support green vehicle technologies and sustainable fuels for road transport. But the vision of a market where low-carbon cars and fuels dominate continues to fade into the distant future. Despite more than a decade of support from many EU governments and intensive R&D by industry, “green cars” that significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions represent less than one per cent of total vehicle sales in the EU. The technology race is taking longer than expected, and the policy options are limited.

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Experts at the round table called for greater clarity on the ability of technologies under development to compete without subsidies and what time frame would be needed. “If you strip away the marketing, fluff, aspiration, the sell, how close are you really to being able to offer propositions that are competitive?” asked John Polak, professor of transport demand, and head of the Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London. Those technologies far from the mark are likely to require additional research before public subsidies could help them become viable alternatives to existing cars and fuels.