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article imageStudy shows electric cars emit 50 percent less GHG than diesel

By Karen Graham     Oct 27, 2017 in Science
A new study has calculated the total lifecycle emissions of an electric car, including its manufacture, battery manufacture, and all of its energy consumption, to show electric vehicles emit 50 percent less greenhouse gasses than diesel vehicles.
The lifecycle environmental impacts of electric cars are a topic of increasing controversy often originating from biased publications and misused reports, according to the study.
However, the new study considers the life cycle performance of conventional and electric vehicles in Europe using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), a methodology often used to for the environmental assessment of vehicle technologies. And doing an LCA is different in that it takes into consideration the total life cycle of a vehicle, essentially from "cradle-to-grave."
The study used an EU estimate of Poland’s emissions – at 650gCO2/kWh, which is significantly lower than calculations by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre science wing last year. And this was an important factor in the study.
Bełchatów Power Station is a lignite-fired power station that produces 27-28 TWh of electricity pe...
Bełchatów Power Station is a lignite-fired power station that produces 27-28 TWh of electricity per year, or 20 percent of the total power generation in Poland.
Morgre/Wikipedia
It showed, that even though Poland uses a high volume of coal for energy production, electric cars in that country produced a quarter less emissions than diesel cars using the LCA assessment.
And in Sweden, one of Europe's cleanest countries with regards to its electrical grid, electric cars produced 85 percent less emissions than diesel cars, whereas, in other countries, including the UK, emissions were 50 percent less than diesel cars.
“On average, electric vehicles will emit half the CO2 emissions of a diesel car by 2030, including the manufacturing emissions,” said Yoann Le Petit, a spokesman for the T&E think tank. "We’ve been facing a lot of fake news in the past year about electrification put out by the fuel industry but in this study, you can see that even in Poland today it is more beneficial to the climate to drive an electric vehicle than a diesel.”
German political leaders are demanding more action to reduce harmful diesel emissions
German political leaders are demanding more action to reduce harmful diesel emissions
DAMIEN MEYER, AFP/File
Diesel fuel and its environmental impact
Proponents of diesel fuel will tell you it is more efficient than gasoline, fully 10 percent more, according to some. However, it is one of the most environmentally damaging of the fossil fuels, increasing pollution levels year after year.
But, here's an interesting piece of information - Diesel was actually promoted as a more environmentally friendly fuel as part of the EU’s response to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide.
And while diesel-fueled cars may produce less CO than gasoline-powered cars, it is the "other" toxic emissions, those harmful to humans, that were overlooked. These include nitrogen oxides (NOx) which include the toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2), greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) and nitric oxide (NO), which reacts with oxygen to form NO2.
Last December  India's Supreme Court temporarily banned the sale of large diesel cars in an at...
Last December, India's Supreme Court temporarily banned the sale of large diesel cars in an attempt to clean up the capital's toxic air
Money Sharma, AFP/File
Basically, we know now that long-term exposure to nitric oxide can greatly increase the risk of respiratory problems, and so these emissions have been regulated for some time. The fine particulate matter (PM) that diesel engines produce also causes cancer and can have acute respiratory effects.
And just like the focus was only on CO2 in 1997, it is not good to just look at only one aspect of what may be a many-pronged problem. This is also what the new study reflects on when it talks about the use of "cradle-to-death" methodologies in assessing the true total output of emissions between electric and diesel vehicles.
The research was carried out by Dr. Maarten Messagie, with Vrije Universiteit Brussel, with the research group MOBI, the Mobility, Logistics, and Automotive Technology Research Centre. The Transportation and Environment (T&E), an EU thinktank, commissioned the study.
Study title: Life Cycle Analysis of the Climate Impact of Electric Vehicles
More about electric vehicles, diesel fueled cars, Greenhouse gasses, Pollution, Environment
 
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