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Save the world with internal combustion engines

Who cares about 50% more emissions?

China, energy, power generation, 2016, graph.

China is powered by 65% coal.

A new study in China compares cars with internal combustion engines to electric cars. Qiao et al estimate that from cradle-to-gate electric cars use about 50% more energy and produce around 50% more emissions. (Thanks to Kenneth Richards at NoTricksZone.)

All Greens should hereby recycle their EV and buy a gas guzzler.

This is not even “lifetime costs” which include disposal.

These results will come as no surprise to people who remember the detailed study in Norway of 2012 which found that “…in regions where fossil fuels are the main sources of power, electric cars offer no benefits and may even cause more harm, the report said.”

In China, these electric cars are powered by 65% coal. Call them “coal-fired-cars”.

The largest single difference was with the battery.

Below, marvel at the results of the Chinese study. (ICE means Internal Combustion Engine.  BEV means Battery Electric Vehicle.)

Not. Even. Close.

If you think CO2 matters, oil powered cars beat coal powered ones.

Electric cars, graph, internal combustion engine, emissions, energy use. 2017.

ICE = Internal Combustion Engine:  BEV = Battery Electric Vehicle. By every measure Electric cars use more energy and emit more CO2.

Even if electric vehicles are powered by the wind, there are other costs. For the UK to power a national electric fleet they’d have to turn Scotland into a wind farm. (We need stationary batteries to supply the mobile batteries. Add up the losses.) In Australia there are estimates that each extra electric car could cost another $2000 per year in network and generation costs. (Let’s add that to the registration cost for an EV shall we?)

Key messages



Electric drive vehicles are equipped with totally different propulsion systems compared with conventional vehicles, for which the energy consumption and cradle-to-gate greenhouse gas emissions associated with vehicle production could substantially change. In this study, the life cycle energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of vehicle production are compared between battery electric and internal combustion engine vehicles in China’s context. The results reveal that the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of a battery electric vehicle production range from 92.4 to 94.3 GJ and 15.0 to 15.2 t CO2eq, which are about 50% higher than those of an internal combustion engine vehicle, 63.5 GJ and 10.0 t CO2eq. This substantial change can be mainly attributed to the production of traction batteries, the essential components for battery electric vehicles. Moreover, the larger weight and different weight distribution of materials used in battery electric vehicles also contribute to the larger environmental impact. This situation can be improved through the development of new traction battery production techniques, vehicle recycling and a low-carbon energy structure.

h/t to ROM


Qiao et al (2017)  Cradle-to-gate greenhouse gas emissions of battery electric and internal combustion engine vehicles in China  Volume 204, 15 October 2017, Pages 1399-1411  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2017.05.041

China’s power generation graph: latest figures from the China Electricity Council, via NRDC .

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