EV Charge WA News

Sat 12 September 2020

The environmental benefits of electric cars versus fossil fuel cars

If zero tailpipe emissions wasn’t enough to make you want to purchase your first EV, rising interest is being fueled by increasing affordability and better availability of EV charging points,

From the time an electric car hits the road it emits no tailpipe emissions, but will produce some degree of pollution from tyre and brake particles

Our comparison is based on a life-cycle analysis that considers all of the carbon emissions during vehicle manufacturing, use and recycling. Life-cycle estimates aren't entirely comprehensive, and emission estimates vary by country, mostly due to the percentage of clean energy they produce. Unfortunately, Australia lags behind in this category.

The three phases of life cycle vehicle emissions are,

Manufacturing

Ore mining

Material transformation

Component manufacturing

Vehicle assembly

Use

Emissions

Upstream emissions of EVs essentially depend on the share of zero or low-carbon sources in the country’s electricity generation mix. 

The recycling phase

Dismantling

Recycling 

Battery recycling

Material recovery


The figures

EVs and PHEVs running only on electricity have zero tailpipe emissions, but emissions may be produced by the source of electrical power, such as standard grid electricity. In areas that use relatively low-polluting energy sources for electricity generation such as New Zealand, PHEVs and EVs typically have an emissions advantage over similar conventional vehicles running on petrol or diesel.

So fossil-fuelled cars generally emit more than electric cars in all phases of a life cycle. The total life cycle emissions from a fossil-fuelled car and an EV in Australia were 333g of CO₂ per km and 273g of CO₂ per km, respectively. That is, using average grid electricity, EVs come out about 18% better in terms of their carbon footprint.

In New Zealand, approximately 80% of energy came from renewable sources in 2019. With these high renewable electricity levels for electric car recharging, compared with Australia, PHEVs and EVs are better suited to New Zealand. Australia’s energy is still coal and gas dominant, together accounting for 77% of electricity generation, the latest data from the federal Energy Department make for welcome reading. Renewable sources contributed 21% of total electricity generation in 2019, an increase of 12%. Using this data, electric car upstream emissions (for a battery electric vehicle) in Australia can be estimated to be about 170g of CO₂ per km while upstream emissions in New Zealand are estimated at about 25g of CO₂ per km on average.

Despite facing some challenges through 2020, renewables could drive Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery. The Clean Energy Council is lobbying federal, state and territory governments to ensure that renewable energy and energy storage is a key part of their COVID-19 response packages.

Looking forward, by 2040 the Australian Energy Market Operator is projecting that two thirds of coal-fired power generation is likely to be retired. That opens the way for a 200 per cent increase in household solar and batteries and increased reliance on grid-scale solar and wind, along with pumped hydro. It says that by 2035 there may be periods where nearly 90 per cent of demand is met by renewable generation.

In conclusion,

As EVs become more mainstream, the costs are dropping rapidly and there is a wide variety of benefits for drivers making the switch. From fuel savings and maintenance costs, electric vehicles could help save you money and have a positive impact on the environment. AS time goes by Australians will find an increased value to their pockets and to the environment through EV adoption as long as we reach our renewable energy targets. 

Brent Smith - EVCHARGEWA

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