As many as 50 plants roughly the size of UK’s new Hinkley Point nuclear power station will be required, raising questions over whether plug-in and hybrid cars are as green as many believe.
The research, carried out by the European Environment Agency (EEA), found that air pollution from sulphur dioxide could even rise because of a surge in electric vehicles if the power they are charged from is made by coal-burning stations.
Though current figures show that electric cars make up only a minority of vehicles on Europe’s roads, sales have continued to rise over the last few years, boosted by government subsidies.
Predictions suggest the pattern is likely to continue, with the EEA study suggesting that plug-in and hybrids could make up 80% of vehicles on the road by 2050.
If this comes true, the 150 gigawatts of electricity needed for charging will place great strain on Europe’s existing electricity infrastructure, the report stated.
With the planned Hinkley Point power station expected to have a capacity somewhere in the region of 3.2 gigawatts, some 50 stations of an equivalent size will be needed to meet the new demand.
Making the switch to electric may be especially problematic in countries such as Poland, where most of the energy is generated from coal-powered stations.
The report said: “In countries with highly fluctuating renewable energy supplies, co-ordinating the energy demand from electric vehicles may become a major challenge.”
However, the report also praised the many benefits that electric vehicles would bring to Europe.
It said there would be a fall in emissions from certain types of air pollution, alongside a drop in carbon dioxide.
In separate research published earlier this year by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the UK’s electric car sales were found to have rocketed in recent years.
There were more than 45,300 plug-in and hybrid cars on the road in 2015, a huge rise on the 20,500 at the end of 2014 and just 134 back in 2010, highlighting the phenomenal growth experienced by the sector.