A new study by the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen and Cambridge has found that electric cars lower carbon emissions overall – even if electricity generation still involves substantial amounts of fossil fuel.
Already under current conditions, driving an electric car is better for the climate than conventional petrol cars in 95% of the world, says the study’s authors.
The only exceptions are places like Poland, where electricity generation is still mostly based on coal.
Average lifetime emissions from electric cars are up to 70% lower than petrol cars in countries like Sweden and France which get most of their electricity from renewables and nuclear, and around 30% lower in the UK.
Even inefficient electric cars will be less emission-intensive than most new petrol cars in most countries within a few years time, as electricity generation is expected to be less carbon-intensive than today.
The study projects that in 2050, every second car on the streets could be electric. This would reduce global CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 gigatons per year, which is equivalent to the total current CO2 emissions of Russia.
The study also looked at electric household heat pumps, and found they too produce lower emissions than fossil-fuel alternatives in 95% of the world.
According to the study’s authors, 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.
“In other words, the idea that electric vehicles or electric heat pumps could increase emissions is essentially a myth,” says lead author of the study and University of Nijmegen professor, Dr Florian Knobloch.
“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.”
Image and content: FleetCarma/University of Exeter