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How clean are electric vehicles?

An electric vehicle is only as clean as the electricity charging it

EV: Compared to internal combustion engine vehicles on a direct substitution basis, EVs reduce emissions

EV: Compared to internal combustion engine vehicles on a direct substitution basis, EVs reduce emissions

 

Electric vehicles (EV) do not generate CO2 emissions, NOx emissions or particulates while driving. But, an EV is only as clean as the electricity that is used to charge it. So how clean are these vehicles?

The average new petrol or diesel vehicle sold in Ireland emits around 112g CO2 per km according to the Department of Transport’s Transport Trends 2018, with the average number for all cars likely to be greater than 150g CO2 per km – given that new cars comprise a small portion of total cars with older cars having higher emissions.

Compared to internal combustion engine vehicles on a direct substitution basis, EVs reduce emissions, says Niall Hogan Head of emobility ESB Cars.

“An EV has zero tailpipe emissions, which is great for air quality in towns and cities. At the current average carbon intensity of electricity generation in Ireland, this would give an emissions figure of less than 70g CO2per km for electric vehicles. This will be further reduced as the electricty sector decarbonises ,” he says.

If you buy a petrol or diesel car today, it will continue to burn fuel for the rest of its life

Ireland

Jeremy Warnock of Renault says Ireland is in a good position regarding clean electricity due to our relatively high renewables mix.

“The most recent figures from the Environmental Protection Agency show us that in 2017, Ireland’s electricity generation produced an average of 437g of CO2 per kWh. That translates to 56gper km for a Renault Zoe which is a fraction of the emissions for a petrol, diesel or hybrid car. In fact, EVs mainly charge at night, and the wind mix is higher at off-peak time, so a Zoe’s real life CO2 emissions are often even lower,” he says.

If you buy a petrol or diesel car today, it will continue to burn fuel for the rest of its life, so its CO2 emissions per KM are locked in. Buy an EV though, and your emissions will decrease as Ireland adds more wind and solar to the mix and continues the trend towards decarbonisation of the grid.

Volkswagen

“We already have customers who, thanks to domestic solar installations, have practically removed CO2 emissions from their daily transport,” Warnock adds.

It is essential that new EV cars are responsibly built cars, Paddy Comyn, head of group communications at Volkswagen Group says. “There is no point bringing out these new zero-emission models, which will serve their purpose in reducing both the Volkswagen fleet and the European fleet’s emissions averages, if the production process and the electricity produced to power the cars aren’t coming from clean and renewable sources.

EV: Volkswagen will have invested some €30 billion by 2023 in the development of the electric vehicle line-up
EV: Volkswagen will have invested some €30 billion by 2023 in the development of the electric vehicle line-up

“Volkswagen will have invested some €30 billion by 2023 in the development of the electric vehicle line-up, but by that same year, the power station in Wolfsburg, Germany (that powers the VW factory close by) will have switched from coal to gas, which will reduce the CO2 emissions by 1.5 million tons annually. By 2025, the CO2 footprint of the vehicle fleet will have been reduced by 30 per cent across the life cycle compared to 2015, and by the same year, the CO2 emissions of all plants are to be cut by 50 per cent compared to 2010. The forthcoming ID, which will go into production in Germany at the end of the year, will be the Group’s first electric car that is CO2 neutral throughout the entire life cycle, if the customer consistently charges with green power.

“Regarding the manufacturing process alone, the carbon footprint of the ID will be improved by more than 1 million tons of CO2 per year. And with the announcement of Elli, Volkswagen’s move to supply green energy, Volkswagen customers will be able to ensure that their electricity comes from renewable sources too.”