Inside the industry: Should electric cars be taxed by efficiency?

Inside the industry: Should electric cars be taxed by efficiency?

As the Government ponders how to tax electric cars, I’m surprised by how little debate is being directed at rewarding efficiency – a glaring omission, considering the industry’s focus (driven in part by customer demand) on prioritising both bigger and higher-riding cars, which in both cases are typically more profitable but more consumptive.

Why is this important? Achieving zero tailpipe emissions is merely a step in the right direction until our vehicles are powered entirely by green energy. Pretty obviously, burning coal to create the electricity to move a car creates large amounts of CO2, whereas using electricity from a wind turbine doesn’t. At the risk of forcing a utilitarian agenda, you might also argue that we should be seeking to conserve the energy that we create regardless of its source, too.

It’s why for now EVs make more sense in renewable-loving Norway than coal-dependent Poland or China; and why the UK, a mid-table performer for CO2 output from its energy generation in European terms, must remain relentlessly focused on investing in renewable energy if its push towards the 2030 EV mandate isn’t to be contradictory.

Just how unequal same-sized electric cars can be is highlighted by EV Database, using real-world data. While the Tesla Model 3 (a very efficient saloon) uses 245Wh of electricity per mile on average, the Toyota bZ4X (a decently efficient SUV) consumes 312Wh per mile.

While battery technology most likely plays a part, that difference of more than a quarter is largely down to aerodynamics and weight, and to my mind is reason enough for legislators to incentivise slipperier,more svelte shapes.

That argument only snowballs if you look at the efficiency of some of the bigger EVs on sale, too. The BMW iX uses 351Wh per mile, the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV 361Wh per mile and the Volvo EX90 375Wh per mile.

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