Study Confirms Electric Cars’ Ecological Footprint is Smaller than Traditional Vehicles

It’s not uncommon to hear the argument advanced that electric cars are as harmful to the environment as combustion-engine vehicles in terms of their lifetime emissions – which take into account the manufacturing process and added electricity generation.

Numerous studies have proven that this is not true, but more confirmation comes from a new study out of the U.K. and published this week by the BBC. The belief that electric cars may actually increase carbon emissions is a harmful myth, according to the new research.

In recent months, a number of studies and reports have sought to answer the question: are electric cars really greener once the emissions from manufacturing and electricity generation are accounted for?

Recent research concludes that in most regions on the planet, electric cars produce fewer emissions overall, even though the use of fossil fuels is often part of the equation for electricity generation.

On top of this, other studies caution that in order to meet climate goals, it will also be necessary to limit travel.

Photo: D.Boshouwers

New research from the Universities of Cambridge and Exeter, Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, shows that in 95% of places around the world, driving an electric car is better for the climate than driving a petrol-powered car.

The only exceptions are places like Poland, where electricity production is still mainly based on coal.

Lifetime emissions

Researchers participating in the study found that the average lifetime emissions of electric cars are up to 70% lower than those of combustion-engine vehicles in countries such as Sweden and France, where most electricity comes from renewable energy and nuclear power). In the UK, the figure is closer to 30%.

The study also concludes the advantage of electric cars in this regard will gradually increase as countries switch to clean electricity.

Photo: D.Boshouwers

It predicts moreover that by 2050, one out of every two cars on the road worldwide could be electric. This would reduce global CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 gigatons per year, which is equivalent to Russia s current total CO2 emissions. And that switch to electric could happen even faster if countries adopt stricter targets. The UK, for example, has regulated that by 2035 every new car sold should be emissions-free.

“The idea that electric vehicles could increase emissions is a complete myth… We have run the numbers for all around the world, looking at a whole range of cars and even in our worst-case scenario, there would be a reduction in emissions in almost all cases.”
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