Researchers at North Carolina State University analysed the potential impact of widespread use of electrically-driven vehicles, based on 108 different battery vs oil cost scenarios in the run-up to 2050.

The report showed even if electrically-driven models accounted for 42% of all passenger vehicles in the United States, there would be a minimal reduction air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

It outlined two reasons for this. The United States has a pollutant-rich electrical grid, which would need to be worked harder to supply the vehicles with electricity, and the transport sector has a comparatively low impact on air pollution. In the U.S., this accounts for around 20% of the country’s total carbon dioxide emissions, the study said.

Dr. Joseph DeCarolis, an assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at the university said: ‘We found that increasing the use of EDVs is not an effective way to produce large emissions reductions.

‘From a policy standpoint, this study tells us that it makes more sense to set emissions reductions goals, rather than promoting specific vehicle technologies with the idea that they’ll solve the problem on their own.’

The report, titled ‘How Much Do Electric Drive Vehicles Matter to Future U.S. Emissions?’ will be published online in the Environmental Science & Technology journal.