Electric cars and the environment


Sir, – I fully agree with Paddy Johnson (Letters, June 9th). Electric cars are not environmentally friendly.

We must assume that the power to charge these cars comes from the least efficient form of generation, hence the largest emitter of CO2, in Ireland’s case fossil-fuel burning stations.

We cannot take it that charging will come from renewable sources.

The logic here is that, if the load for charging cars did not exist, the power generation from the least efficient station would be the first to be shed.

Let’s deal with some figures. For a single-cycle power plant (taking into account all the loses from combustion of the fuel, through generation, transmission, charging the battery and discharging to drive the car), the overall efficiency is about 25 per cent (ie the net useful energy is about 25 per cent of the input).

By comparison, a diesel power car has an overall efficiency of about 40 per cent and a petrol power car about 30 per cent. Therefore, the net effect is that, to drive an electric car, a greater amount of carbon dioxide is released than for either a petrol or diesel car.

This release is at the power plant rather than where the car is being used.

Until we eliminate all fossil-fuel burning power generation and are solely reliant on renewable forms of energy, electric cars cannot be considered environmentally friendly. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Paddy Johnson (Letters, June 9th) states that in relation to driving a fully electric car, “it is possible that overall emissions reduction will be minimal”. This is true but it need not be so. As with the adoption of any new technology, we need to take our time to learn how to use it to good effect.

I have driven an electric car for six years, The vast majority of my journeys are less than 50 kilometres. I have a home charger and rarely need to use an on-street charger. By charging my car at night, it is being charged by wind energy, thus totally sustainable. The use of solar panels is being encouraged. Now that I have added some to my roof, I can now charge up during the day, at least in summertime, on solar energy.

Adapting to this technology means changing the way we we think about and do things. One change we need to make is to allow more time. If we drive more slowly, our cars will travel further. A journey that took four hours may now take five, including time for a recharge.

The end result is safer cleaner travel, a benefit surely worth a bit more of our time. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – Paddy Johnson (Letters, June 9th) recently posed several hypotheticals to cast doubt over the carbon efficiency of electric cars versus petrol and diesel.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland indicates that an electric vehicle in Ireland emits 60g of CO2 per kilometre driven, based on 2019 average grid emissions. In comparison, an equivalent petrol engine emits 130g of CO2 per kilometre.

The net decrease in emissions, to overcome the extra carbon intensity of manufacturing batteries, occurs within two years of driving (data for a Nissan Leaf on the UK grid). Further, the carbon emissions of electric vehicles will only decrease over the coming decade as the share of renewables increases on the grid.

Electric vehicles are not zero carbon, but they are substantially less carbon intensive. Not to mention that petrol cars emit nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and particulates, are noisy, are less safe, have terrible acceleration, etc.

As for disposing of electric car batteries. Like any valuable resource, they can and will be recycled. Renault already does this. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin