Are electric cars as green as they could be?

Petrol and diesel cars are set to be phased out in the UK by 2040 - but where will the power for electric vehicles come from?
Petrol and diesel cars are set to be phased out in the UK by 2040 - but where will the power for electric vehicles come from?
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Electric cars are not as environmentally-friendly as they would be if the UK made better use of the tidal power available off the coast of places like Lancashire, a county councillor has said.

Stephen Clarke told a recent meeting of Lancashire County Council’s external scrutiny committee that it was “barmy” to present electric vehicles as a clean alternative unless the power used to charge their batteries was from a renewable source.

“How can you say it’s an electric-run car when you have a gas-fired power station making the electricity? It’s not an electric vehicle if it’s being run by carbon fuels.

“We should be looking at tidal energy, because the tides are in and out twice a day and we’ve got some of the highest in the country,” said County Coun Clarke, who has previously backed plans for a tidal power system in Fleetwood, part of which he represents on the authority.

Mike Taylor, strategic development manager at distribution firm Electricity North West, admitted that there could be a contradiction.

“A recent report said that Germany’s electric fleet was dirtier than if [it was] running diesel.

“But the more that we can [obtain] from renewable sources, the greener [electric vehicles will get].

“The problem with tidal is that its twice as expensive as anything you’re putting on land, like wind and solar,” Mr Taylor said.

Figures released in June revealed that UK electricity obtained from ‘clean’ sources had overtaken the amount generated by carbon-based plants for the first time ever between January and May this year – creating a 48 percent to 47 per cent split between the two.

Renewables now account for almost a quarter of electricity generation, with wind power increasing from one percent to 19 per cent over the last decade.

The meeting also heard a claim that local authorities should be more “proactive” over power sources when granting planning permission for housing.

Committee member and Labour group leader, Azhar Ali, called on district councils to be more willing to attempt to shape developments.

“They could be conditioned to have no gas on site or solar panels. Developers don’t like doing this sort of thing, because it would be more costly than conventional means,” County Coun Ali said.

He added that utilities companies should be more willing to make representations to councils when they learn of planned developments.

Members were told that moves towards a zero carbon economy in the UK by 2050 would require twice the grid capacity and three times the energy flowing through it.