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Proof Electric Cars Can Cut Co2 Emissions by Half

Electric cars have had their critics, but now there is data that proves the effectuality of putting zero emissions vehicles on the road.

A new study commissioned by the European Federation for Transport and Environment reveals that small electric cars produce 50% less greenhouse gas than the equivalent petrol or diesel car. Comparing lifetime output, petrol or diesel vehicles produce 32 tonnes of CO2 in one lifecycle, compared to 15 tonnes for the electric alternative.

This report was released ahead of the world’s first zero emission vehicle summit in Birmingham, in hope that more nations will adopt the electric model and work towards replacing petrol and diesel vehicles. The summit comes after the Prime Minister’s pledge at the One Planet event in Paris, and will bring together world leaders, industry experts, academics and financial institutions to discuss targets and to showcase innovative technology.

Electric vs. Fossil Fuels

The UK press and transport research groups have often pointed out the carbon-extensive process of battery manufacture, and added particle pollution from the making of electric vehicles. The criticism has been a core focus of critics, leading to a huge underestimation of how much the electric model can achieve in terms of greenhouse gas reduction.  

But the latest study calculates the total lifecycle of an electric car. This data includes everything from start to finish, including parts manufacture, battery manufacture, and the total energy consumption on the road.

This means that although electric cars are not 100% pollution free, they are still emitting significantly less greenhouse gas than their fossil fuel counterparts.

The immediate reduction in toxic air pollution has always been known when switching over to the electric model, but the true impact on CO2 has never been clear until the release of the findings by the European Federation for Transport and Environment.

Which Countries Use the Most Fuel?

When we look at the world’s most fuel guzzling countries, the US, China, Japan, India and Russia are the top five, with the US and China consuming far more than any other country in the world.

Whilst China and the US have both invested significantly in the electric car market, and are both in the top 10 countries with the biggest market shares in the electric model, the country being the most progressive is Norway.

Figures show that Norway has the largest market share, with almost one third of all cars being sold in the country being electric. In comparison to the US and China, the two highest consumers of fuel, the share percentage is exponentially more. Electric car sales make up less than 2% in the US, and less than 3% in  China, whilst Norway’s sales are over 30%.

By volume however, China’s market is the biggest in the world. Drivers in the country have a growing interest in the electric vehicles, and the trend of choosing a plug-in car over a traditional fuel car is surging according to recent data.

With the release of the European Federation for Transport and Environment’s new study, and the world’s first zero emission vehicle summit, it is hoped that some of the major fuel consumers can do more to introduce electric cars as a lower carbon solution.

Nicola Mills's picture

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 25, 2018 5:01 pm GMT

Nicola, unfortunately there is no data that “proves the effectuality [sic] of putting zero emissions vehicles on the road.” And because you don’t link to the study you cite, there is no way for readers to determine whether the study is flawed or you’re misunderstanding/misinterpreting its conclusions.

Let’s begin with the fact there are no “zero emissions” vehicles. Every vehicle has a carbon footprint, which includes factors unrelated to driving it - manufacture, maintenance, discarding/recycling.

Most of a vehicle’s carbon footprint comes from driving it, and most of that is related to onboard fuel consumption or electricity generation. Driving an electric vhicle can be (virtually) emissions-free, but only if it’s charged with 100% renewable or nuclear electricity. If not, one must account for the emissions from generating the electricity used to charge it. If electricity is generated by burning coal, operating your EV is likely dirtier than driving a comparable one powered by a gasoline engine.

The city where I live (Burbank, CA) has spent hundreds of $thousands installing EV charging stations along its streets. But because the city gets one-third of its electricity from a coal plant in Utah, driving an EV charged here is responsible for more emissions than driving a high-efficiency hybrid or even a comparable, new gasoline-powered one.

All to say: “the devil is in the details”.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on Sep 28, 2018 1:40 am GMT

Hi Bob,

Folks talk about replacingLDV ICs with EVs, but have not a clue what they are talking about.

Electrifying the NE transportation sector would result in significantly increased load and generation on the NE grid

EVs Charging, Impact on NE Grid and Capital Cost: RE proponents claim EVs would be charged at night, and that it would “flatten the demand” curve. In reality, peak demands would occur at night, instead of during the day.

- NE monthly average travel is about 130.678/12 = 10.89 billion miles; summer monthly maximum about 10.89 x 1.14 = 12.41 b miles, winter monthly minimum about 10.89/1.14 = 9.55 b miles. Daily averages, such as for a holiday weekend, likely would vary more than 14% from the annual average.

- If the EVs were charged 24 hours/d, the NE grid load increase during that peak month would be an average of 7193 MW. The new gas turbine capacity would be about 9591 MW, at a turnkey capital cost of $14.4 billion, plus $billions more for grid expansion and new LNG terminals or pipelines from Pennsylvania. See table 3.

- If the EVs were charged 8 hours/d, the NE grid load increase during that peak month would be an average of 21580 MW. The new gas turbine capacity would be about 28774 MW, at a turnkey capital cost of $43.2 billion, plus $billions more for grid expansion and new LNG terminals or pipelines from Pennsylvania. See table 3.

- That would be a significant increase of the normal nighttime demand of about 12000 MW. The normal daytime peak demand is about 22000 MW, and about 25000 MW during the late afternoons of hot summer days.

- The existing gas turbine capacity (which by now would include the gas turbines needed to replace nuclear) definitely would not be sufficient to provide that new nighttime demand and electricity.

Future Heat Pumps: Future heat pumps would impose very significant additional demand increases of daytime demand during hot days in summer (likely already with peak demands), and additional increases of winter demand during cold days in winter.

NE Grid Completely Inadequate: The winter demand increases due to EVs + heat pumps, would severely stress the NE generation capacity, fuel supply, and NE grid. In fact, NE generation capacity, fuel supply and almost all NE high voltage and distribution grids would be completely inadequate.

Electricity Storage Systems: It would be financially unfeasible to use storage to cover the daily, weekly, and seasonal variation of wind and solar, as theturnkeycapital cost of one TWh of storage systems (as delivered to the HV grid) would cost about 1 billion kWh x $400/kWh = $400 billion. Even as future battery costs would decrease, the rest of the turnkey system costs likely would not. See Appendix and URLs.

Wind And Solar are Much Less than Meets the Eye: In 2017, the entire load on the NE grid was about 121.061 TWh, of which 78.8 TWh was provided by low-cost domestic gas and nuclear. To feed to the grid an additional 55.313 TWh for charging EVs with highly subsidized, expensive, unreliable, variable, intermittent wind and solar would be a huge physical challenge, especially during summer when wind is minimal for months (just look out the window), and during winter when solar is minimal for months. See Appendix.

RE Proponents Have Plans for Our Energy Future: RE proponents in Massachusetts and New York are adamantly opposing additional gas lines to provide additional low-cost gas from Pennsylvania. They want to wean us off gas and nuclear to save the world. They say NE state governments have plans to temporarilyimport Russian and Middle East LNG at 3 times the price of domestic gas, until they build out wind and solar.

They do not say it would take a temporary periodof at least 2 or 3 decades to actually implement:

- The planned wind and solar expansion

- Replacing nuclear plants with LNG-fired gas turbine plants

- Replacing gasoline light duty vehicles with EVs charging at night

- Replacing traditional building heating systems with heat pump systems.

- About doubling the capacity of the NE grid for the increased demand and load.

NOTE: The capital cost would be much greater, if all the replacement electricity were from wind and solar, because TWh-scale energy storage systems would be required, as there would not be enough remaining gas turbine capacity to provide the peaking, filling-in and balancing services for the large quantities of variable/intermittent wind and solar.

A ten-fold increase of Everett-size tanker loads would be required, if Russian/Middle East LNG.

Everett could handle at most 100 tanker loads/y.

The required expansion would be at least 256 tanker loads, plus for heat pumps. See table.

Karel Beckman's picture
Karel Beckman on Sep 28, 2018 9:24 am GMT

What "new study" from the European Federation of Transport and Environment are you talking about? Can you give a link?

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