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RAC hits out over environment secretary’s claim that EV gains ‘may be less than some hope’

  • George Eustice highlighted fears over deadly particulate matter from brake and tyre wear
  • Motoring organisation commissioned top battery expert to debunk theory
  • Academic’s data showed that brakes wear far more slowly in EVs
  • Tyre wear is similar for non-driven wheels and only slightly worse on driven wheels

Time 8:49 am, March 19, 2022

The RAC has condemned environment secretary George Eustice’s comment to MPs that electric vehicles might not be as green as people think.

It commissioned a leading battery expert to ‘set the record straight’ and said Eustice might deter some people from making the switch to EVs.

Although EVs don’t have any harmful emissions, Eustice was referring to fine particulate matter known as PM2.5, which relates to brake and tyre wear and contributes to tens of thousands of deaths each year.


With EVs typically heavier than their combustion-engined equivalents, there are fears that PM2.5 pollutants could be higher.

Eustice told the Commons’ environment, food and rural affairs committee earlier this year: ‘The unknown thing at the moment is how far switching from diesel and petrol to electric vehicles will get us.

‘There’s scepticism as some say that [due to] wear and tear on the roads, as these vehicles are heavier, the gains may be less than some people hope, but it’s unknown at the moment.’

In response, motoring organisation the RAC commissioned leading battery electrochemist Dr Euan McTurk to debunk the theory.


His data showed that brakes wear far more slowly in EVs, while tyre wear is similar for non-driven wheels and only slightly worse on driven wheels.

Brakes wear much more slowly than in combustion cars because EVs have regenerative braking. When the car slows, the electric motor is reversed, converting kinetic energy into electricity to top up the battery, which helps reduce the car’s speed.

This means the brakes aren’t used as often, and typically at lower speeds, reducing wear even more.

McTurk pointed to Dundee Taxi Rentals that said its Nissan Leaf brakes had a pad life of up to 100,000 miles – four times that of its diesel taxis.

Meanwhile, mechanics at EV sales and servicing centre Cleevely Electric Vehicles said they regularly saw brakes that had lasted more than 100,000 miles and found that it was more common for them to replace brakes that had seized through lack of use rather than wear.

When it came to tyres, McTurk disputed an Emissions Analytics study in 2020 that said tyre pollution was 1,000 times higher in EVs.

He said that that based on those figures it’d take just 4,000 miles for a tyre to completely wear through to the alloys and would wear out its tread in less than 1,400 miles.

RAC EV spokesman Simon Williams said: ‘George Eustice’s remarks about EVs not being as green as some may think were very unhelpful and could put some drivers off making the switch to zero-emission driving.

‘We hope these positive real-world experiences will help to clear up some of the confusion.’

Darren Cassey's avatar

Darren is a staff writer for Car Dealer parent company Blackball Media. He has been writing about cars for eight years and tests all the latest models on sale, with previous experience at Car Throttle and DriveTribe.

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