According to a study by Radbound University, Already under current conditions, driving an electric car is better for the climate than conventional petrol cars in 95% of the world.
According to a study by Radbound University, Already under current conditions, driving an electric car is better for the climate than conventional petrol cars in 95% of the world.
( Bild: Radboud University)

Electric Vehicle Electric cars better for climate in 95 percent of the world

| Author / Editor: Erika Granath / Erika Granath

Reports have questioned whether electric cars are truly 'greener' once emissions from production and generating their electricity are considered, but a new study by Radboud University with the universities of Exeter and Cambridge has concluded that electric cars lead to lower carbon emissions in 95 percent of the world.

A common rhetoric spewed out by petrol-heads is that electric cars are just as bad for the environment when accounting for how the electricity is produced.

Now, these voices have been proven wrong by a group of international researchers from Radboud University and the universities of Exeter and Cambridge. In a recently published study, the research team concludes that electric cars lead to lower carbon emissions in 95 percent of all cities worldwide, even if electricity generation still involves 'substantial amounts of fossil fuel.' Countries such as Poland, where electricity generation is still mostly based on coal, are the only exceptions.

The researchers did not only calculate greenhouse gas emissions generated when using cars. They carried out a life-cycle assessment in which they also included the emissions produced throughout the entire production chain and waste processing.

Electrification is almost always cleaner

In countries like Sweden and France (that get most of their electricity from renewables and nuclear), the average lifetime emissions from electric cars are up to 70 percent lower than petrol cars. The study reported that the same figure in the UK is about 30 percent.

The study examined the current and future emissions of different types of vehicles globally. To account for differences in power generation and technology, the researchers divided the world into 59 regions. In 53 of these regions—including most of Europe, the US and China—the findings show electric cars are already less emission-intensive than fossil-fuel alternatives. These 53 regions represent 95 percent of the global mobility sector.

According to the study's authors, even inefficient electric cars will be less emission-intensive than most new petrol cars almost everywhere in the world in a few years. The main reason for this being electricity generation in the future is projected to be less carbon-intensive than today. If we're to believe the study, every second car on the streets could be electric by 2050. If true, this would reduce global CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 gigatonnes per year. And to put that figure into perspective, 1.5 gigatonnes is equivalent to the total current CO2 emissions of Russia.

Debunking the electrification myths

In a statement by Radboud University at the time of the publishing of the report, Florian Knobloch, environmental scientist at Radboud University said: "We started this work a few years ago, and policy-makers have shown a lot of interest in the results. 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,"