Petrol cars emit four times as much CO2 as EVs, new study finds

30th August 2019


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Meggan Edwards

Electric vehicles (EVs) emit just one-quarter of the CO2 that conventional petrol and diesel cars do on average, research by Imperial College London (ICL) has found.

The study of UK vehicles also found that total emissions from EVs would still be half those of conventional cars if taking the manufacturing of batteries into account.

And after just two to three years of running, the carbon emitted in producing batteries for the most efficient EV models would have been saved, according to the researchers

Moreover, the increasing decarbonisation of Britain's electricity supply means that today's EV's could produce just one-tenth of the emissions of petrol cars in five years' time.

“An EV in the UK simply cannot be more polluting than its petrol or diesel equivalent, even when taking into account the 'carbon cost' of manufacturing batteries,“ said ICL's Dr Iain Staffell.

“Any EV bought today could be emitting just a tenth of what a petrol car would in as little as five years' time, as the electricity it uses to charge comes from an increasingly low-carbon mix.“

There are now well over 200,000 EVs on Britain's roads, and this number is growing by 30% per year, according to electrical power company Drax, which commissioned the research.

And electricity generation is decarbonising faster in the UK than anywhere else in the world. The latest study found that wind, solar, biomass and hydro supplied a record 55% of demand on June 30.

Moreover, one in 40 cars sold in the UK are now electric, around a third of which are pure battery models, and two-thirds are plug-in hybrids, according to the researchers.

This comes after the National Grid's latest Future Energy Scenarios report forecast Britain's EV fleet to expand by ten-fold over then next 10 to five years.

“The electrification of transport is going to be vital if we are to address the climate crisis,“ said Paul Sheffield, managing director of Drax's customer supply businesses, Haven Power and Opus Energy.

“Supplying renewable electricity to businesses is one step towards helping them to be more sustainable – enabling them to decarbonise other aspects of their operations, like transportation, will mean they can play a fuller role in the transition to a zero carbon future.“

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