Lifetime carbon emissions of electric cars are much lower than previously suggested, according to a new study from the Eindhoven University of Technology.
First reported by Der Spiegel, the study also takes aim at previous studies claiming electric cars have higher overall emissions than internal-combustion vehicles.
Factoring in emissions from both manufacturing and driving, the study found that in Europe, carbon-dioxide emissions for a Volkswagen e-Golf were 54% lower than even a Toyota Prius—among the most fuel-efficient cars with an internal-combustion engine.
Similarly, the study found that lifetime emissions from a Tesla Model 3 were 65% lower than emissions of a diesel Mercedes-Benz C220d. While not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, the study also found that a Porsche Taycan S sedan produced 82% lower emissions than a Bugatti Veyron supercar.
These results are based on the current electricity-generating mix of fossil fuels or renewable energy. Emissions could be lowered even further if electric cars were charged exclusively with renewable energy, the study found.
“If we speculate about a future in which production and driving are done on renewable energy this results in at least ten times less emissions than what is achievable with combustion engines using fossil fuels,” the study’s summary said.
2019 Volkswagen e-Golf
Assuming that EVs won’t get cleaner over their lifetimes as more renewable-energy generating capacity is one of the six “biggest mistakes” in studies that find EVs to have similar greenhouse gas emissions to gasoline and diesel cars, researchers said.
Other studies also exaggerate the emissions of battery production, or downplay emissions of fossil fuel production, according to this study. Other “mistakes” highlighted include underestimating battery lifespan, using manufacturer-backed laboratory emissions tests, and ignoring the limited space for efficiency improvements in internal-combustion technology.
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) data has underscored that EVs are cleaner than the vast majority of gasoline vehicles right now, assuming the current electrical grid and including the additional carbon impact of manufacturing. Considering the electrical grid will become cleaner, EVs will have a far lower lifecycle footprint.
There have been many studies attempting to refute this, but they haven’t been based on assumptions that reflect the real world.
While there are few places in the world in which electricity generation is dirtier than gasoline emissions, these are outliers. A recent study found that electric cars are already cleaner than gasoline cars in 95% of the world.
For those who want to look deeper into carbon impact, there are also tangents related to land use and human activity to consider.