EVs are better for planet - mostly

Despite the need to generate electricity from a still mixed set of sources, electric cars seldom increase carbon emissions and usually help reduce them, a new research report claims.

A new study in Nature Sustainability by Radboud University in the Netherlands with the universities of Exeter and Cambridge has concluded that electric cars lead to lower carbon emissions overall, even if electricity generation still involves substantial amounts of fossil fuel.

Under current conditions, driving an electric car is better for the climate than conventional petrol cars in 95 per cent of the world, with the only exceptions being where electricity generation is still mostly based on coal, such as Poland. Average lifetime emissions from electric cars are up to 70 per cent lower than petrol cars in countries like Sweden and France and around 30 per cent lower in the UK.

The study also predicts that in 2050, every second car on the streets will be electric. This would reduce global CO2 emissions by up to 1.5Gt per year, which is equivalent to the total current CO2 emissions of Russia.

“We started this work a few years ago, and policy-makers have shown a lot of interest in the results,” said Florian Knobloch, environmental scientist at Radboud University, the lead author of the study. “The answer is clear: to reduce carbon emissions, we should choose electric cars and household heat pumps over fossil-fuel alternatives.”

The researchers carried out a life-cycle assessment in which they not only calculated greenhouse gas emissions generated when using cars, but also in the production chain and waste processing. “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,” Knobloch concluded.

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