Electric cars may not cut CO2 emissions and ease our dependence on oil, according to the Environmental Transport Association (ETA).
ETA says low running costs of electric transport would increase demand for cars and push up the need for electricity resulting in more coal and nuclear power stations being built.
However, the ETA report identified 'significant potential environmental benefits' from a shift to electric vehicles, but said these were dependent on changes in the way electricity was generated, energy taxed, and CO2 emissions regulated.
The report claims that as long as electricity is generated by burning coal, hybrid petrol-electric cars are better for the environment than purely plug-in vehicles.
Andrew Davis, director of the ETA, said: 'Although the report is not intended to dampen enthusiasm for electric vehicles, introduction of such technology should not be viewed as a panacea; significant changes to the way we produce and tax power are needed before we will reap any [environmental] benefits.'
Flaws in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme
Binding EU targets for vehicle CO2 emissions were agreed last December. These include 'super credits' that allow car makers to sell up to 3.5 SUVs for every electric vehicle sold, and still meet official emissions targets.
Electric cars are rated as zero CO2 emissions, because tailpipe emissions only are measured, rather than those generated in the production of electricity to fuel the cars.
This allows manufacturers to 'offset' electric vehicle production against less-efficient cars, and the report concludes that as more electric vehicles are sold, more oil will be used and more CO2 emitted.