Critics of electric cars (EVs) have pointed out that they’re only as clean as the sources of the electricity that charge their batteries.
Researchers at Berlin’s Radiant Energy Group consulting firm have parsed data to discover exactly where EVs in Europe are the dirtiest.
Answer: Poland and the Republic of Kosovo produce most of their electricity from coal, which makes EVs in those countries greater offenders against air quality than gasoline and diesel vehicles.
In contrast, nuclear- and hydro-powered Switzerland racks up a 100-percent carbon reduction compared to gas and diesel cars; Norway, heavy on water power, 98 percent; nuclear-loving France, 96; Sweden 95; and Austria 93 percent, the study found.
Scraping bottom: Cyprus at 4 percent carbon savings, Serbia 15 percent, Estonia 35 percent, and the Netherlands at 37 percent.
Germany, Europe’s car capital, chugged into the ratings at a 55 percent carbon savings for EVs; much of the country’s electric grid is still coal-powered.
The calculations weren’t easy to make.
Charging an EV in Ireland and Moldova reduces emissions by about the same amount, the study found, even though the grids’ fuel sources are vastly different.
Moldova gets 94 percent of its electricity from natural gas; Ireland gets 46 percent of its power from renewable sources, but 13% comes from oil, which releases 1.8 times more carbon emissions than natural gas, 9 percent from coal (2.3x dirtier than gas), and 3 percent from burning peat, which puts more than two-and-a-half times more carbon into the air than gas.
In countries that have an extensive gridwork of renewable energy, the time of day an EV is charged also matters; electric grids still lack meaningful storage capacity for wind or solar energy and EV drivers have to grab it when it’s moving through the wires.
In Germany and Spain, for example, charging in the afternoons when wind and sun are most prevalent cuts emissions by between 16 and 18 percent compared to charging overnight when oil, gas, and coal-fired plants are back in action.
TRENDPOST: Every technology has hidden costs and drawbacks, even those that are entirely noble in intent.
Electric grids are evolving to incorporate storage of renewable energy (“NEW ENERGY DEPARTMENT PROJECT MODELS ELECTRICITY’S FUTURE,” 20 Apr 2021) and away from fossil fuels (“RENEWABLE POWER SOURCES TO EDGE PAST GAS & COAL BY 2026,” 23 Feb 2021).
However, for the foreseeable future, would-be EV buyers seeking to be on the green side of history will have to confront the end-to-end environmental benefit of the purchase, something that, so far, few have been inclined to do.
Of course, regardless of the green quotient, some buyers will be content with studies showing that the lifetime cost of ownership of an EV is notably less than that of a gas buggy.