There is a myth, no doubt encouraged by the oil junkies, that Electric Vehicles are responsible for as much pollution to the atmosphere as fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Electricity has to be generated somewhere, and that process generates pollution anyway, so electric cars are no better than petrol or diesel vehicles overall, right?
This is a gross exaggeration. While power stations will emit carbon as long as they burn fossil fuels, giant electricity generation systems are far more efficient than dirty little car, van and truck engines. Furthermore, as renewables replace fossil fuel as a means of central power generation, this will become a completely redundant argument.
Electricity generation fuel mix
Let’s look at some numbers for power generation around the world. Canada has a great energy generation mix with 63% of its electricity being created through hydroelectric power plants and a mere 16% from fossil fuels.
The UK hasn’t got the ability to go to hydro to that extent but we have some of the greatest untapped wind, wave and tidal resources in the world, so we have the potential to follow in Canada’s footsteps by using our own energy mix. On 2015 figures, 64% of our electricity generation is from fossil fuels. 30% of the overall mix is from coal and this is falling dramatically as we close down coal-powered stations, while 34% of the overall mix is natural gas.
The US is broadly similar, using 33% coal and 33% natural gas – very comparable with the UK.
Well To Wheel
The next stage in debunking the crazy argument against electric vehicles is the efficiency of power production. Here’s a Well to Wheel calculation that shows the efficiency of power extraction per kilowatt of energy extracted at source.
Petrol (gas) vehicle engines are the least efficient, with only 12% of the latent energy in the fuel being turned into power. The rest is lost as heat and through unburnt fuel being ejected as poisons from the tailpipe.
Diesel engines are 18% efficient, but are choking our towns and cities with noxious by-products with every turn of the vehicle wheel.
The overall fuel-efficiency of EVs depends on where you live, and how the electricity they use is generated. In Canada, 51% of the sourced energy is turned into power. In the US and UK with their relatively dirty fuel generation, this is only around 32%.
So, even in what some people refer to ‘the dirty old man of Europe’ (the UK) EVs convert well over 100% more energy into forward motion than do vehicles with a petrol or diesel engine.
So now we have shown how energy is extracted and compared efficiency of the fuels used, let’s look at the CO2 emissions per kilometre of EVs versus petrol-engined cars. We have chosen the Tesla Model S 85D and an average US fossil-fuelled passenger car.
The comparison is run on the energy mix of Canada and the US, and is based on the UN’s Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN).
The average US passenger vehicle emits 0.281kg of CO2 per km.
The Tesla Model S, like all electric vehicles, varies its emissions impact according to the energy mix of the country it is driving in. In clean Canada this is 0.034 kg of CO2 per km. In the US and UK this is around 0.106 kg of CO2 per km.
The bottom line: Percentage reduction in CO2 emissions
So how much less-polluting overall is an EV over fossil-fuelled cars?
In Canada EVs, compared to the average US passenger vehicle is 88% more efficient.
In the US and UK, EVs are on average 62% more efficient.
To be perfectly clear: You are reducing your carbon emissions by nearly 2/3rds by switching to an EV, today!
The clean future
The National Grid as a source of vehicle energy generation is getting cleaner and cleaner. Solar energy has been used more than coal on several occasions in the UK, and coal is being phased out of the energy mix.
No matter how oil junkie governments fight their public, there is a growing belief that we should get on and dump fossil fuels. There are UN targets for clean energy generation too, and we are certainly heading in the right direction.
Overall, in 5 years’ time the energy mix will be dramatically different in the UK, and EVs will have far lower ‘emissions’ than even they do today.
One question that can’t be ignored is that as EV use increases, so grid power demand will increase. This may slow the switch to renewables, but it won’t stop it altogether. New technologies and power sites are coming on-stream all the time.
The green revolution is here to stay and YOU should join it right now. A trip to your local EV-dealer is called for. So book an electric car test drive today!
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