BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union needs a leap in the number of electric and hybrid cars on the road over the next decade to succeed in cutting auto carbon emissions significantly by 2025, a British consulting firm found.
The study by Ricardo-AEA will stoke already difficult debate over how to implement a 2020 vehicle emission standard of 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer (g/km).
The Commission has said it will publish a document later this year on low carbon car standards beyond 2020.
The consultancy, which advises governments and companies, looked at a set of scenarios for 2025 in the study, commissioned by campaign groups Greenpeace and Transport & Environment and seen by Reuters prior to official publication.
It found that an average of 70 g/km across the bloc could be achieved by 2025 if new car sales were divided roughly equally between hybrid and conventional cars. The resulting extra manufacturing costs of around 1,615 euros ($2,200) for a hybrid car could be paid back in less than three years through fuel savings.
The same goal could be reached if new car sales included 7 percent electric vehicles and then only 22 percent hybrid cars, the study found.
Environmental campaigners want an ambitious goal of 60 g/km for 2025 to be agreed alongside the implementation debate on reaching the 2020 goal. That would give vehicle manufacturers, who say product cycles are between five and seven years, enough time to adapt and prevent Europe from losing any innovative edge.
A 60 g/km target could be achieved if up to 24 percent of new vehicles were electric, which is "well within the range of credible market projections and scenarios", the study said.
Hybrid vehicles - part powered by electricity and part by fossil fuels - in 2010 made up around 1 percent of the EU fleet and electric cars around 0.1 percent, according to figures from the International Council for Clean Transport.
Although renowned for gas guzzling, the United States has already set a standard for 2025 that requires the doubling of fuel economy in cars from 2011.
The EU argument over implementing 2020 goals is highly technical. Luxury carmakers in Germany, for example, argue for loopholes, known as supercredits, that would allow them to continue producing more polluting cars if they also make some cars with very low emissions such as electric vehicles.
To try to spur the uptake of greener transport fuel, the European Commission, this month proposed a law to establish a minimum number of electricity, hydrogen and natural gas refueling stations.
(editing by Jane Baird)