School runs and other short journeys contribute to more than 60% of all CO2 pumped out by private cars, delegates at the Sunderland International Automotive Conference this week heard.

Several speakers made a point of quoting figures that show that average journeys are far shorter – and far more polluting – than most people might think.

Catherine Hutt, head of the Electric Vehicle Group at the SMMT, said that “Sixty-four per cent of the total tonnage of carbon associated with private cars is for trips of less than 50 miles.” These she said would typically be the school run and supermarket shopping trips.

Dave Greenwood, project director of the Advanced Technology Group at Ricardo, quoting Department for Transport statistics, said that 93 per cent of UK journeys are less than 25 miles, generating 60 per cent of CO2, while 98 per cent of journeys are less than 50 miles.

This means that the limited range of electric vehicles is not the concern that many believe and using EVs would help to greatly reduce CO2 emissions.

Mr Greenwood also told the 140 delegates at the Stadium of Light that EVs used three times more energy to travel the same distance at 70mph as at 30mph, making EVs “best suited for city driving while hybrids and plug-in hybrids are more practical for high speed operation.”

His view was echoed by Graham Smith, managing director of Toyota Motor Europe, who said that Toyota, while working on an EV programme, believed plug-in hybrids offered the best of both worlds, running on electric power for short, low speed journeys and in petrol-electric hybrid mode for longer journeys.