Media reports have questioned if electric cars are really “greener” once emissions from manufacture and electricity generation are counted.
Electric vehicles produce less carbon dioxide emissions than petrol cars across the vast majority of the planet, disagreeing to the claims of some critics, who have claimed that the CO2 emitted in the production of electricity and their manufacture overshadows the benefits.
The finding is a boost to governments, including the UK, seeking to move to net zero carbon emissions, which will require a massive expansion of the electric car fleet. A similar benefit was found for electric heat pumps.
In the UK, transport is now the major contributor to the climate crisis and domestic heating has persistently been fixed on using natural gas for a large percentage of the country.
Across the planet, passenger road vehicles and household heating generate about a quarter of all emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Encouraging the use of electric vehicles is essential to reducing overall emissions, but how clean an electric vehicle is depends on how the electricity is generated for the vehicle.
That has made some individuals and governments question whether these technologies are worth expanding. The published study in the journal Nature Sustainability, produced a conclusive yes.
Scientists from the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen and Cambridge conducted lifecycle assessments, showing that even where electricity generation still involves substantial amounts of fossil fuel, there was a CO2 saving over conventional cars and fossil fuel heating.
They discovered that in 53 out of 59 regions, electric vehicles and domestic heat pumps generate less carbon dioxide than fossil fuel powered cars or boilers, with exceptions to countries that are heavily coal dependent.
The study forecasts that in 2050 every other car on the streets of the planet could be electric, reducing global CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 giga-tonnes per year.
The new study also looked at electric household heat pumps and found they, too, produce lower emissions than fossil-fuel alternatives in 95% of the world.
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