One of the fiercest debates around electric cars is how green they are when you take into account the production of batteries and the energy to power them.
One report has found that electric models in Europe emit, on average, almost three times less CO2 than equivalent petrol and diesel cars, according to the figures from a new online calculator.
And the tool has estimated that electric cars will reduce CO2 emissions four-fold by 2030 as the Europe’s energy gird moves increasingly towards renewables.
Three times cleaner: A new tool launched by a green campaign group claims that – on average -electric cars are much cleaner than petrol and diesel cars, even when considering if electricity is generated by power stations and taking into account the CO2 impact of battery production
The calculator has been created by a green transport group to promote electric vehicle adoption and also show the scale of the environmental impact of motorists shifting to plug-in cars.
Lucien Mathieu, an analyst at Transport & Environment, said the tool ‘puts to rest the myth that driving an electric car in Europe can be worse for the climate than an equivalent diesel or petrol’.
He adds: ‘The most up-to-date data shows that electric cars in the EU emit almost three times less CO2 on average.’
T&E says this green gap between internal combustion engine vehicles and electric cars will widen by 2030 thanks to an EU grid relying more and more on renewable energy.
The tool doesn’t use lab test figures for petrol and diesel cars as the campaign group says they ‘seriously underestimate real-world fuel consumption and therefore CO₂ emissions’, despite them being used as official figures by car makers in sales brochures,
Lucien Mathieu from T&E says the calculator ‘puts to rest the myth that driving an electric car in Europe can be worse for the climate than an equivalent diesel or petrol’
For diesel and petrol cars, the measurement of CO2 is the average real-world consumption of the top 10 most-sold vehicles in 2018 for each vehicle category, including superminis, medium-size family hatchbacks, SUVs and so on.
Fuel and energy consumption is based on the declared values provided by millions of drivers, taken from the German Spritmonitor database.
Electric cars, which produce zero tailpipe emissions, were – of course – measured differently.
Full lifecycle carbon emissions from electricity generation have been taken into account.
This includes emissions generated by burning fossil fuels in power plants (e.g. coal or gas) to produce electricity, but also the upstream emissions from the production of the powerplants.
In the best case scenario – an electric car with a battery produced in Sweden and driven in Sweden – an EV will emit 80% less CO2 than diesel and 81% less than petrol
In the worst cast scenario – an electric car with a battery produced in China and driven in Poland – an EV will still emit 22% less CO2 than a diesel car and 28% less than a petrol motor
For renewables, the upstream emissions from the extraction of the metals and the manufacturing of the solar panels or the wind turbines are also included.
As a consequence, no source of electricity is completely zero CO2 emissions (the lowest being wind electricity).
As well as electricity generation, all emissions from the battery production are included, such as the mining and refining of the materials.
However, T&E says the recycling of the batteries is not yet taken into account by this tool because, it states, there is ‘little solid evidence to support what could be the impact of recycling’.
It added: ‘Existing studies provide values that are within the margin of error and do not rely on fully scaled-up and efficient recycling plants.’
With all these factors taken into account, the tool shows that electric cars in Europe emit, on average, almost three times less CO2 than equivalent petrol/diesel cars.
Poland is the most reliant on coal fire power stations, though will move more towards greener energy supplies by 2040 – like the rest of Europe
The comparison shows the difference in tons of CO2 emitted as mileage increases
Transport & Environment sourced data to show how energy generation will shift more towards renewables in the future
In the worst case scenario, an electric car with a battery produced in China and driven in Poland – which is the European nation most heavily reliant on coal-powered stations to generate electricity – still emits 22 per cent less CO2 than a diesel and 28 per cent less than a motor with a petrol engine.
And in the best case scenario, an electric car with a battery produced in Sweden and driven in Sweden can emit 80 per cent less CO2 than diesel and 81 per cent less than petrol, the tool suggests.
The eco transport campaigners want European governments to take account of the environmental benefits of electric vehicles and to speed up the transition to them.
T&E, based in Brussels, is supported by 62 organisations (52 members and 10 supporters) working to promote smarter, cleaner transport in 24 countries across Europe.
Members are not-for-profit national organisations with an interest in transport users and the environmental and health impacts of transport, with funding coming from various sources – including Transport for London in the UK.
T&E says the tool – which you can access here – will be updated as new data is available.
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