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    The Environmental Advantage of Electric Cars Has Increased

    Some people believe that electric cars are much better for our planet than combustion engines and therefore have an environmental advantage. Others see two snags here: Manufacturing electric cars is energy-intensive and the power consumed is usually anything but CO2 neutral. So who’s right? Easy Way magazine has found a study that drills down on this topic.

  • Solar panel in front of a city Power supply, transport, industry and agriculture should become more sustainable.

    The European Union aims to be climate-neutral by 2050. This means changes need to be made to the power supply as well as in transport, industry and agriculture for them to become CO2-free. This transformation is called decarbonisation. In a study, 15 researchers spent two years investigating how politics can advance the decarbonisation of mobility. The Berlin-based Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland were involved in this research. They were supported by the Volkswagen Sustainability Council. Senior Researcher Dr Nicolas Koch from MCC and Researcher Christian Bauer from PSI outline their insights on volkswagenag.com.

  • Low-CO₂ electricity is key

    “We need electric cars for effective climate change,” says Christian Bauer, when summarising the key message of the study. “In science, this answer has been clear for some time. However, it has not been possible to adequately communicate the findings to the public. As a result, there are always contributions to the discussion that are largely free of expert knowledge. To put it bluntly: If Europe wants to be climate-neutral by 2050, no internal combustion engine should be on the road by that time – at least for passenger cars.” He also thinks the argument that e-mobility only makes sense in combination with sufficient low-CO2 electricity is a justified one. “That is undisputed,” Bauer explains. “The restructuring of the transport sector and the electricity sector must take place in parallel.” The researcher adds: “No matter how fuel-efficient the engines are, it will never be possible to avoid CO₂ emissions with petrol and diesel vehicles. In contrast, electric cars have the potential to drastically reduce climate-damaging emissions. The key is CO₂-free or low-CO₂ electricity.”

    Two women unplug the electric car from the charging station. By 2050 only electric cars will be seen on the road.
  • Increase in environmental advantage of electric cars

    Bauer reckons that one new insight gained from their research work is that the climate advantage of electric cars over internal combustion engines has grown significantly in recent years. “This is due to advances in battery production, longer battery life and the higher proportion of renewable energies in Europe.

    Compared to combustion engines, the production of electric cars still requires more energy. However, this is offset after a few tens of thousands of kilometres, provided that the vehicles are charged with clean electricity,” says Bauer.

  • Call on politicians

    Electric cars charge at networked charging stations outside a housing estate Networked charging stations create the perfect infrastructure for charging at home.

    They are clear on what needs to be demanded of politicians now. “Take Germany, for example: The planned CO₂ price surcharge for petrol and diesel is a good start,” says Dr Nicolas Koch from MCC, who would like to see a cross-sectoral European solution. “Our research has clearly confirmed how important CO₂ pricing is as a political instrument,” he stresses.

    His colleague Christian Bauer urges that: “The state should become even more involved in the expansion of the charging infrastructure. And it must create better conditions for charging at home.” And he is certain that: “For passenger cars, we need a complete switch to battery vehicles.”


    Eager to know more? You can find further information on the study here.


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