Cars

CO2 balance: how environmentally friendly are e-cars really?

Is this Electric car the Savior for the turnaround in traffic in Germany? How clean are the heavily subsidized and increasingly popular Stromers really? How does your Environmental balance off, especially at Climate killer CO2? Many people ask themselves these questions before buying a car.
Unfortunately, there are no clear answers to any of these questions. to many studies and surveys there are too many approaches and perspectives on the subject many factorsthat play a role. However, in the summer of 2021, the renowned International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) battery-powered vehicles (BEV) excellent report card the end. But one thing is also certain: the electric car alone will not be able to save the climate in Germany or around the world. And as with combustion vehicles, there is also the Electric vehicles size differences in matters environmental friendliness and CO2 backpack.

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In principle, not only the local Propulsion emissions, but the ones produced Pollutants for the entire life of the car be considered – from production to scrapping or recycling. The main focus is on CO2 balance, i.e. the amount of climate-damaging greenhouse gas that is produced on average per kilometer driven. However, studies are often used here as well different assumptions provided, for example, for Lifespan of an e-car battery or for Production site, of which in turn the used Electricity mix depends.

Electricity mix and battery as the most important criteria

CO2 limit values ​​for cars

The fight against CO2 has made fuel and gas guzzlers more expensive since the beginning of 2021.

The electricity mix is ​​one, if not all the decisive criterion when comparing the types of drive. The second: the Battery of the electric car. It is not only the most expensive but also the most environmentally harmful component of the vehicle. Most of the time it’s one Lithium-ion battery, its most important ingredient controversial because of its dismantling is. Production also requires a lot of energy and therefore causes a lot of CO2. And there it makes a difference whether a battery made in China will (like most) or in Germany, with a significantly lower proportion of electricity from coal.

ICCT: E-cars are clearly the cleanest

Looked at the entire operating time in July 2021 International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT)which played a decisive role in the uncovering of the VW diesel scandal in 2015. In a detailed life cycle analysis for the most important markets of the EU, USA, China and India, the environmental organization came to the conclusion: Electric cars are clearly the cleanest vehicles. Even with the current energy generation, a medium-sized electric vehicle in Europe emits around two thirds (66 to 69 percent) less harmful greenhouse gases than a burner. In the US it’s 60 to 68 percent. An electricity mix based on the EU climate plans for 2021 to 2038 was assumed. With pure green electricity, up to 78 to 81 percent fewer life cycle emissions would be possible.

Study: Up to two thirds less CO2 through e-cars

Many other studies also provide the Electric vehicles compared to combustion vehicles now a better testimony from what especially am high efficiency of the engine lies. The balance of the ADAC shows that the CO2 disadvantage of battery cars from driving performance of 50,000 to 100,000 kilometers will be balanced. 2020 took a particularly close look Transport & Environment (T&E), an umbrella organization of non-governmental European environmental organizations. According to their investigation (to the official PDF) a Electric car in Europe throughout its life cycle for almost two thirds less CO2 responsible than a comparable Petrol or diesel.
The authors include the entire production chain of the electric car, but also the Production of gasoline and diesel from petroleum. In general, they see the raw material consumption at 17,000 liters (12,500 kilograms) of gasoline and 13,500 liters (11,340 kilograms) of diesel as critical, while thanks to an average e-car battery recycling and Second life use only 30 kilograms of metal raw material would be properly consumed. In addition, the need for raw materials for the battery will continue to decrease thanks to advances in technology.
Lead story CO2 balance

According to a study by the Technical University of Eindhoven, a Tesla Model 3 emits 65 percent less CO2 than a comparable Mercedes C 220 d.

A study by the Technical University of Eindhoven in 2020 also saw the Stromer clearly ahead. She went from one longer battery life and for the first time by 75 instead as often before from 175 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour of battery capacity. A Tesla Model 3 came up 65 percent less CO2 than a comparable Mercedes C 220 d. Already after 30,000 kilometers be that The disadvantage of the energy-intensive production of the electric car was leveled outaccording to the Dutch researchers.

That Fraunhofer Institute für Innovations- und Systemsforschung published “The current greenhouse gas emissions balance of electric vehicles in Germany” in 2019 and stated that a battery vehicle (BEV) bought in Germany had a useful life of 13 years Greenhouse gas (GHG) savings of 28 percent compared to a luxury class diesel and up to 42 percent compared to a small car gasoline engine. The study presupposed the implementation of the energy turnaround in Germany. Cars with large batteries of over 80 kWh and mileage of 8000 to 9000 kilometers per year, however, came to one hardly better CO2 balance than comparable combustion engines. A result that can actually be viewed as generally applicable: The smaller the battery, the greater the advantage of the electric car.
That too Öko-Institut and the think tank Agora Verkehrswende see in detailed investigations for e-cars already today a clear climate advantage compared to comparable vehicles with diesel or gasoline engines. That Federal Environment Ministry In January 2021, when looking at the life cycles (for PDF), he came to the conclusion that e-cars had an advantage over diesel by 23 percent and gasoline-powered cars by as much as 30 percent in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, there are also publications that Electric car in one significantly worse light see. So in 2019 one ifo study (to the pdf) caused a sensation with the result that electric cars produce more CO2 than diesel vehicles. However, she was accused from many quarters of that Electric car is artificially worse, the diesel on the other hand better calculated been.
Also a survey of the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute (to the pdf) on lithium-ion batteries drew a negative balance for e-cars. For production, she calculated between 150 and 200 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per kilowatt hour of storage capacity, extrapolated 4 to 15 tons of CO2 per battery; depending on size. Two years later the researchers revised however, the result is 60 to 106 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per kWh – due to an improved electricity mix and higher production efficiency.

Serious environmental damage from lithium mining

The study “The concept of efficiency in the climate policy debate on road traffic” by Frontier Economics on behalf of several Mineral oil associations sees synthetic fuels like e-fuels for the energy balance at eye level with electric vehicles; but the work is controversial. And an investigation of the Association of German Engineers (VDI) came to the conclusion that the The CO2 balance of electric cars is by no means fundamentally better than that of cars with internal combustion engines. The production of the battery “hampers the CO2 balance over the entire life cycle of a vehicle”, summed up VDI President Volker Kefer to the “Handelsblatt”. And: We must not forget the sometimes serious environmental damage caused by the mining of raw materials for e-car batteries such as lithium and cobalt. Among other things, showed a detailed WDR documentaryhow in countries like Chile or Bolivia, when entire salt lakes were pumped out, fresh water seeped in and the drought increased massively and the habitats of the inhabitants were destroyed.

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