Confusion over Electric Cars’ Green Credentials

A driver in Singapore was recently fined a sum close to 14,000$ Aud because he purchased and tried to drive a Tesla-S electric car. That was strange because he had, in fact, been anticipating a government grant towards the vehicle as part of their ‘drive electric’ campaign.

The government justification was, incredibly, that the electric car actually produced more harmful emissions of greenhouse gases than a conventional larger petrol engine car.

That decision caused outrage amongst the global environmental lobby and disputes over measurements between numbers of different parties around the world.

What’s going on?

The Answer to Pollution

For several decades, environmental protection advocates have aggressively campaigned for more resources to be invested in electrically-powered vehicles. Their rationale seems to be intuitively correct and bordering on compelling, i.e. that such vehicles must be better for the environment than petrol or diesel engine cars.

So, the Singapore government’s decision to fine the buyer of an electric car due to its apparently higher pollution levels and to ban it from being driven on the road for a period, has come as a huge shock.

The Singapore Government’s initial pollution analysis figures looked horrific and simply miles higher than Tesla’s published sales publicity material claimed.

At the time of writing, Tesla and the Singapore government are locked in discussion about who is right or wrong. There are plenty of reassuring messages coming out of both parties relating to “misunderstandings” and “will be resolved quickly”.

While that may be the case, this saga does highlight that the story about electrically powered cars is not all one-way or universally accepted.

Trust and Facts

It’s undoubtedly true that society has started to think of electricvehicles as being relatively pollution and carbon-footprint free.

This story is a timely reminder, even if the Singapore government proves to be wrong in this case, that they are no such thing. The electricity used in charging and driving the vehicle has to be produced and that is a polluting process — even if it is far less so that that involved in producing and burning carbon fuels for consumption in a car engine.

Many fleet managers and luxury limousine hire companies will have been hit hard by advertising from the growing number of hybrid and electric manufacturers, stressing their Green credentials but this story may worry them about changing over too hastily.

The question as to which of the two parties is correct will hang around until some clarification is issued. Then there will be those questions as to why the Singapore government seems to have raised this when, to date, nobody else has.

The questions continue. For example, after the recent Volkswagen scandal in manipulating test results, can a manufacturer’s figures ever be trusted?

Getting this one right and removing suspicions of a manufacturer’s bias or foul play in testing doesn’t sound like ‘rocket science’. Surely a fully independent set of globally-agreed measures tested on a car-by-car basis by an independent body must be better than simply reading a manufacturer’s claims or listening to a politician offering their opinion?

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