The anti-electric vehicle crowd has always been down on the energy-saving benefits of stepping away from internal combustion engines. Their claim is that electric vehicles (EVs) are more expensive in terms of energy overall when you factor in manufacturing, maintenance, and charging. Some go so far as to call them “coal-powered,” especially in places where the grid is supported by fossil fuel energy generation.
But according to an article published in the journal Nature Sustainability, researchers in the Netherlands and England found that even electric vehicles charged by coal-fueled power stations still produce fewer emissions than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles.
“In other words, the idea that electric vehicles or electric heat pumps could increase emissions is essentially a myth,” said Florian Knobloch of Radboud University, the paper’s lead author.
The researchers found that in the UK, accounting for all potential drain on the grid, electric vehicles produce 30 percent fewer emissions than gas-powered cars. In the UK, more than 50 percent of that energy is created by fossil fuels, mostly natural gas. Stats in the U.S. are similar.
In France and Sweden, whose electricity is produced with even more focus on renewables, EVs are up to 70 percent more efficient.
The other half of this argument, that electric vehicles are too energy-expensive to build to make up the difference, was also debunked. According to a 2015 Union of Concerned Scientists study, the typical EV saves enough energy in 16 months of regular driving to offset all the emissions generated by its production, not just the difference in emissions between an EV and a fuel-powered vehicle.
All in all, their research found that in 95 percent of the world, EVs take less energy to build, maintain, and drive than fuel-based vehicles. The slim exception to this rule comes from countries where the national grid is exclusively powered on fossil fuels, such as Estonia, Poland, and unfortunately, India. This isn’t a fact that should detract from the use of electric vehicles, but rather, it should show how far-reaching the benefits will be in moving more grids to renewable sources.
Photo: Electric vehicles at charging stations. Credit: Shutterstock