Japan’s nuclear disaster may pull the plug on EV enthusiasm in Europe

Luca Ciferri is chief correspondent at Automotive News Europe.Luca Ciferri is chief correspondent at Automotive News Europe.
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Japan’s race to avoid a nuclear disaster at its earthquake-crippled Fukushima power plant is sending shock waves around the world. One result of the plant's possible meltdown is that the future of nuclear energy is in doubt in parts of Europe as environmentalists and other opponents call for plant closures.

If that happens, it will be a serious blow to those fighting hard to build a viable business case for battery-powered mobility here.

Plans to have about a million EVs on European roads by 2020 heavily rely on an increase of nuclear-generated electricity. EV supporters say that electric cars become nearly carbon neutral when they get their electricity from nuclear power. This argument was developed when people started to question the well-to-wheel CO2 of EVs especially if the source of their power was a coal or natural gas plant.

Statistics show that an EV that gets its power from a nuclear plant using the latest generation of reactors has well-to-wheel CO2 emissions about 10 gram per kilometer. By comparison, the cleanest diesel-electric hybrids are forecast to emit 50g/km.

Nuclear power was one of the pillars on which the EV’s future in Europe was built.

Every minute of coverage about the Fukushima catastrophe weakens that pillar a little more and makes me wonder if plans for the electrification of European mobility can survive the backlash.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at

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