A new study claims that EVs are better for the environment than gasoline-powered vehicles in 95 percent of the world
Comparing the eco-credentials of electric cars and their gasoline-powered counterparts isn’t as simple as counting the carbon emissions coming (or not) from the tailpipe. New research is claiming to have settled the debate once and for all by taking all factors into account, including the production of, and electricity generation for, EVs and found that they are better for the climate in 95 percent of the world.
While there is no debate that EVs pollute less once they are actually on the road, some argue that the CO2 generated during the manufacturing of EVs and in the generation of the electricity to charge them actually outweighs that produced by cars with internal combustion engines (ICEs). The thinking is that while renewables can play a part of the energy mix, EV owners still need to rely heavily on coal- and gas-fired power plants to keep their cars charged and running.
The new research was carried out by scientists at the University of Exeter, University of Cambridge and University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and found that while there are exceptions, electric vehicles are generally better for the climate in the vast majority of places.
To arrive at these conclusions, the team separated the world into 59 regions as a way of categorizing their varying approaches to power generation and technology, while also taking into account the current and future emissions of different vehicle types, production chain emissions and waste processing. According to the analysis, in 53 of those regions, electric cars are responsible for lower emissions overall than gasoline-powered vehicles.
This includes most of Europe and highly populous countries such as the US and China. The researchers calculated that the average lifetime emissions from electric cars are as much as 70 percent lower than ICE-powered cars in Sweden and France, where renewables and nuclear contribute much of the energy supply, and around 30 percent lower in the UK. They found exceptions in places like Poland, where coal is burned to produce most of the country’s electricity.
As part of their study, the scientists also compared household heat pumps powered by electricity as opposed to heating systems powered by fossil fuels, and found that they too would produce lower carbon emissions in 95 percent of the world. Were they adopted around the world, the team calculates that by 2050 they could reduce global CO2 emissions by up to 0.8 gigatons a year, an amount equal to Germany’s annual emissions today.
“Taking into account emissions from manufacturing and ongoing energy use, it’s clear that we should encourage the switch to electric cars and household heat pumps without any regrets,” says lead author of the study, Dr Florian Knobloch, from the University of Nijmegen.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.