EDITOR’S COMMENT: the government is banning petrol and diesel cars and forcing people to spend thousands on getting electric vehicles, all in the name of saving the planet. But, time and time again, we are told how electric vehicles aren’t actually helping the environment…
Electric cars with heavy batteries should face higher taxes because of toxic particles released from their tyres and their impact on the road surface, experts have recommended.
While switching to electric cars will remove pollutants from exhausts, models with large batteries capable of travelling 300 miles between charges emit up to 8 per cent more fine particles from tyres and road wear than petrol and diesel cars, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
It says electric vehicles should not be exempted from tolls and congestion charges aimed at reducing road traffic emissions.
Drivers could also be encouraged to buy lighter electric cars by linking vehicle taxes to weight, the Paris-based think tank adds. It calls for a “reappraisal of the net environmental benefits” of electric cars and suggests that they should not be given “blanket support”.
“Road traffic regulations should consider both exhaust and non-exhaust emissions from all vehicles and should take into account factors like vehicle weight and tyre composition,” it says.
The pollution problem from tyres and road wear could also be addressed by policies designed to discourage use of cars in urban areas in favour of cycling, walking and public transport.
While exhaust emissions are heavily regulated, there are no limits on the pollution a car can cause from tyres, brakes and road surfaces.
“With stringent controls on tailpipe emissions and increased penetration of electric vehicles, non-exhaust emissions are quickly becoming the dominant source of particulate matter from road transport and are expected to comprise the vast majority of particulate matter pollution from road transport as early as 2035,” the OECD says.
In March, a company called Emissions Analytics said its tests had found that new cars could emit 1,000 times more particle pollution from their tyres than their exhausts.
Frank Kelly, an expert on air pollution at Imperial College London, said the report showed that simply replacing fossil fuel cars with electric ones would not deliver clean air.
“Electrification of the fleet is an important step forward but it needs to be nuanced so that we have better public transport and safer active travel opportunities in towns and cities,” he said.