Doctor and activist

Electric Vehicles: How helpful are they for Climate Change? 5/6/20

There are claims and counter claims for how much electric vehicles (EVs) improve the greenhouse gas situation. The production of batteries is quite energy-intensive, so a large battery car takes about twice as much energy to produce as a normal Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) car.

The ‘payback’ time for that extra energy is about 2 years based on the number of km an average (UK) driver does per year.

But the key variable is how the electricity is generated, both in making the battery and in running the car. If it is made in Asia with coal fired electricity to manufacture the car and then charged with coal powered electricity, there is very little benefit. If the battery is produced by renewable electricity and the car charged with renewable electricity, the savings are more than two thirds by 150,000km.

If you keep your old ICE car for 4 years, it will have produced about the same amount of greenhouse gas as it takes to produce a new electric car. Looked at it the other way, it takes 4 years for a new electric car to pay for itself from an emissions point of view as against paying just for the petrol of an existing ICE car.

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans

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