Electric cars are better for environment than petrol or diesel, study concludes

Friday, 27th March 2020, 11:08 am
Updated Monday, 30th March 2020, 9:20 am

Scientists have debunked the myth that electric cars are as bad for the environment as their petrol guzzling counterparts.

A new study has revealed that electric vehicles produce around a third less emissions in their lifetime - despite the environmental impact of producing them and generating the electricity to power them.

In countries such as Sweden and France, where a large portion of power comes from renewable sources and nuclear, electric cars are putting out around 70 per cent less greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. But even in countries where energy comes from fossil fuels, they are still less polluting.

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In fact, the only places where electric cars don’t beat fossil fuelled vehicles are where power comes mainly from coal, such as Poland and India.

Clear choice to switch

Overall, drivers in 95 per cent of the world's highest transport and heating demand countries can cut their carbon footprint by switching, according to the study.

Researchers in the UK and Netherlands also found that household electric heat pumps, which draw heat from the ground and air, could help cut emissions almost everywhere.

Study lead author Dr Florian Knobloch said: “The answer is clear: to reduce carbon emissions, we should choose electric cars and household heat pumps over fossil-fuel alternatives.

"In other words, the idea that electric vehicles or electric heat pumps could increase emissions is essentially a myth. We've seen a lot of discussion about this recently, with lots of disinformation going around.

“Here is a definitive study that can dispel those myths. We have run the numbers for all around the world, looking at a whole range of cars and heating systems.

“Even in our worst-case scenario, there would be a reduction in emissions in almost all cases. This insight should be very useful for policy-makers.”

The team behind the study, which was a joint effort between researchers at Radboud University in The Netherlands and with the universities of Exeter and Cambridge in the UK, predict that half of all cars on Britain’s road will be electrically powered by 2050.

Combined with advances in electric car technology and moves to make power plants less “emission intensive,” CO2 emissions could be cut by up to 1.5 gigatons per year by the middle of the century - the total current CO2 emissions of Russia.

Meanwhile, heat pumps could reduce global CO2 emissions in 2050 by up to 0.8 gigatons per year - roughly equal to Germany's current annual emissions

Whole-life impact

The study examined the current and future emissions of different types of vehicles and home heating options worldwide.

Researchers not only calculated greenhouse gas emissions generated when using cars and heating systems, but also in the production and waste processing.

The findings show electric cars and heat pumps are already less emission-intensive than fossil-fuel alternatives across all of Europe, the US and China - responsible for generating 95 per cent of global transport and heating demand.

With energy production decarbonising worldwide, Dr Knobloch said the "last few debatable cases will soon disappear".

He added "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.”