A new study finds “the total CO2 emissions will be much lower with continued use of the old but operational combustion car instead of buying a new electric one.”
It has long been assumed that replacing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles with electric vehicles (EV) will lead to dramatically lower CO2 emissions. [bold, links added]
But after analyzing the CO2 emissions associated with producing an EV, the EV battery manufactured and replaced every ~5 years, and the power supply of the charging stations (whether coal, gas, or wind/solar), scientists (Neugebauer et al., 2022) have determined that an EV emits only eight percent less CO2 over its lifetime than an ICE vehicle does in a country with an electrical grid energy mix like Poland has.
But even an eight percent CO2 emissions “savings” by switching to driving an EV may be an overly optimistic scenario.
With the average annual driving distance in Europe about 7,500 km/year per vehicle, it would take 12 years of driving the same EV to realize a net CO2 emissions reduction relative to just continuing to drive an ICE vehicle. (Nearly all EV owners purchase replacements well before 12 years have elapsed.)
Worse, if an ICE vehicle is driven only 4,000 km/year, there is no scenario – no matter how many years an EV owner drives her car – when replacing an ICE vehicle with an EV will ever realize a CO2 emissions “savings” relative to continuing to drive the ICE vehicle.
And in the case of EVs powered by electricity derived from coal combustion (which is the primary electrical power source in countries like China), the CO2 emissions are “more than 10% higher for the electric car” compared to an ICE vehicle. (In China, over 13% of vehicles are electric.)
“Ultimately, the replacement of an electric car every five years with a new model, from the point of view of cumulative CO2 emissions and based on our calculations and simulations, will result in more CO2 emissions than the consistent use of an old combustion car for the remainder of the vehicle life cycle.”
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