Electric Cars Release Less CO2 Over Lifetime Than Diesel Cars Even When Powered By Dirtiest Electricity In EU

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Even when they are powered exclusively by the “dirtiest” grid-provided electricity in the world, plug-in electric vehicles are responsible for a smaller greenhouse gas footprint than diesel cars are, according to a new lifecycle analysis from VUB University (Brussels) and Transport & Environment (T&E).

So, to say that again, despite talking points to the contrary, plug-in electric vehicle drivers actually are responsible for reduced greenhouse gas emissions as compared to drivers of diesel cars. Yes, even when powered by some of the most carbon-intensive power plants in the world, regardless of modality (coal, nuclear, etc.). electric cars are “greener.”

Obviously, though, carbon footprints for plug-in electric vehicles absolutely are smallest when relying on renewables.

The press release provides more: “Even in countries with the highest GHG intensity of electricity generation — Poland and Germany — the EV performs better on a lifecycle basis (including the emissions in manufacturing the battery and vehicle) than the diesel car. Using the Polish average, an electric vehicle emits 25% less CO2 over its lifetime, while in Sweden an EV emits 85% less. Meanwhile, EVs’ sustainability will improve further with battery technology advances and as more batteries are re-used for electricity storage or recycled.”

The Clean Vehicles and e-Mobility Officer at T&E, Yoann Le Petit, commented: “Today an electric vehicle driving on Polish electricity — the most carbon intensive in the EU — still has a lower impact on the climate than a new diesel car. With the rapid decarbonisation of the EU electricity mix, on average electric vehicles will emit half the CO2 emissions of a diesel car by 2030 including the manufacturing emissions.”

As it stands, the improved carbon footprint of plug-in electric vehicles hasn’t translated to high sales in most of Europe’s countries, but that could change quickly as cost-competitive, long-range electric cars start getting around.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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