Electric cars and energy efficiency


Sir, – Any meaningful discussion about electric cars and CO2 emissions must include an explicit recognition that low-occupancy private motorised transport is the least energy-efficient and most environmentally unsustainable mode of travel.

Electric cars do not emit CO2 in use, but in terms of overall environmental impact the entire product lifecycle should be taken into account.

Public transport consumes much less energy and emits much less CO2 per passenger-kilometre, which is a much more important metric.

This is especially true at peak travel times, when our public roads are typically clogged with single-occupant private cars.

Electric cars will not solve the inter-related problems of traffic congestion, urban sprawl, environmentally destructive road-building and social inequalities related to transport.

Low-carbon mobility requires a coherent and co-ordinated transport policy framework based on energy-efficient technology, comprehensive environmental protection and sustainable behaviour change.

A reorientation of Government policy towards public transport, cycling and walking is required, as technology alone cannot deliver the required changes in the short time frame available for effective climate action.

The shift in mode of transport to sustainable transport and active travel will also generate additional dividends in terms of public safety, population health and social capital, all of which must be taken into account when evaluating the costs and benefits of government expenditure in relation to climate change. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The letter from Paul Mulvaney, of ESB (July 29th) highlighting Ireland’s achievement in renewable energy, citing 26 per cent of the electricity generated in Ireland coming from renewable sources, could be misleading to readers concerned about CO2 emissions.

The relevant statistic considers the entire electricity system, accounting for the efficiency of our power plants, especially the total fuel input into electricity generation. Renewable sources represent only 16 per cent of the total inputs using this whole system accounting, with inefficient coal, and other CO2 based fuels making up well over 80 per cent.

Essentially, large amounts of coal produce relatively little amounts of electricity generated, so if you measure after generation, coal’s share in our electricity mix appears much less than its true input or CO2 significance.

The inefficiency of electricity generation from coal and the harmful emissions it produces must be taken into account if the real carbon cost of our electricity system is to be understood.

The electrification of transport is certainly a necessary step on the road to a zero carbon future, but it is only worthwhile if the electricity used to power this transportation is clean.

As the last three years have been the three hottest years in recorded history, now, more than ever, a system­-wide accounting approach is needed in discussing CO2 emissions. – Yours, etc,


Engie S.A,

Master in International


Sciences Po,