A survey carried out by the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU / e), on behalf of the Dutch green parliamentary group, sets the record straight: electric cars have a CO2 balance that is 50 to 80% lighter compared to diesel or similar gasoline models.
In the sights of Auke Hoekstra and Maarten Steinbuch, respectively researcher in electric mobility and founder of the Masters in Automotive Technology at the Technical University of Eindhoven, the wrong conclusions against plugged-in vehicles.
Thus those of the German economic research and forecasting institute IFO which certified last year that a diesel car emits less CO2 than an electric one, attributing an impact of 156 to 181 g / km to a Tesla Model 3 against 141 grams for a Mercedes Class C 220d.
The authors of the Dutch study oppose that the small American sedan emits 65% less CO2 than the star over its lifetime: 91 against 260 g / km CO2 eq. And this, including the manufacture of vehicles (with its battery for the EV), the use of machinery, and the production of energy that drives the engines.
30,000 km to offset the CO2 emitted by manufacturing the battery
Auke Hoekstra and Maarten Steinbuch do not question that the manufacture of an electric car weighs more heavily in carbon footprint: 32 g / km CO2 eq for the Mercedes Class C 220d, against 51 g / km CO2 eq for the Tesla Model 3, including 23 grams for the battery of 75 kWh of energy capacity.
On the other hand, the energy used – including that required to produce diesel and electricity – weighs 228 and 40 g / km CO2 eq respectively for the German and the American.
According to the researchers, it only takes 30,000 kilometers to offset the greenhouse gases released specifically during the manufacture of the Model 3’s 75 kWh pack.
Prius vs e-Golf and Veyron vs Taycan S
Two other comparisons were made by the editors of TU / e. They may appear a little curious, even out of place.
Thus the face to face between the Toyota Prius 1.8 l of 2020 and the Volkswagen e-Golf 36 kWh. No more than 28,000 km would be enough to erase the CO2 emitted to produce the German battery. Its carbon footprint would weigh 78 g / km CO2 eq, or 54% less than that of the Prius (168 g / km CO2 eq).
Faced with the Bugatti Veyron, the Porsche Taycan would release 82% less CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere: 140 against 778 g / km CO2 eq. Only 11,000 kilometers to offset the greenhouse gases emitted in the manufacture of the 93 kWh pack from Germany.
Growth of renewable energies
It is the growth of renewable energies in the European energy mix that would be overlooked in studies that conclude against electric cars. They are most often based on a value of 175 g / km CO2 eq to produce a kilowatt hour of battery capacity, advanced in 2017 by the authors of a Swedish study that was already controversial.
“Recent research clearly shows that the data used to date on energy consumption in battery production was incorrect or out of date. The previous assumptions can be reduced by more than half, ”says Oliver Krischer, MP and vice-chairman of the Green parliamentary group, on his website, who also points to an Adac study that has since been suppressed.
It would only be emitted 75-85 g / km CO2 eq to obtain 1 kWh of battery. Values that will be increasingly reduced with the development of renewable energies and the abandonment of power plants fueled by fossil fuels.
The German daily Spiegel asked Christian Bauer of PSI, the largest Swiss research institute for the natural and engineering sciences: “With the exception of Poland and Estonia, electric cars are already clearly more climate-friendly than combustion engines in all EU countries ”.
Other elements argue for a reduction in the carbon impact of electric cars. Longer-than-expected battery life. The 150,000 km estimated lifespan without any real setbacks a few years ago is erased in front of the 500,000 km achievable with medium and high capacity packs. In their calculations, Auke Hoekstra and Maarten Steinbuch were cautious in taking 250,000 km as a base.
In addition, for thermal models, many studies forget to count the CO2 released during the extraction, transport and refining of crude oil, and are based on gasoline and diesel consumption communicated by the manufacturers, below 25-40% compared to the realities on the ground.
The researchers at the Technical University of Eindhoven cannot be blamed for having dared to face-to-face which seemed surprising. The Tesla Model 3 versus the Mercedes C-Class 220d was required to make an adjustment with the data transmitted by IFO.
Readers might have liked the Volkswagen e-Golf to be pitted against a thermal or hybrid Golf. The interest in choosing the Toyota Prius is however very symbolic since it is the direct descendant of the model which revealed and then democratized the hybrid powertrain. In addition, the Japanese manufacturer is putting the packet in communication on this architecture, including by directly opposing 100% electric models in its advertisements.
The comparison between the Porsche Taycan and the Bugatti Veyron seems much more questionable. The performances and target customers are very different. This weakens the estimate of 11,000 kilometers to compensate for the production of the German battery. We are clearly not in the same niche.
Any careful reader knows that it is possible to manipulate the numbers in such a way as to orient conclusions with the broadest support. However, it is very clear that the progress made and to come in electric vehicles and renewable energies is occurring at a much faster pace than for thermal models and the production of electricity from fossil sources. Which leaves little doubt about the increasingly solid advantage of EVs over diesel and gasoline VTs.
As general manufacturers begin to produce electric cars, they are deeply transforming their production tools by supplying them with green energies. BMW was the first to do so, Volkswagen and others follow. Let’s admit that Toyota has also done it to green its hybrids a little more.
Either way, this TU / e study sets the record straight. Even if its authors have at times made somewhat borderline choices that our readers will not hesitate to uncover, the conclusions really point in the direction of the progress and possibilities of technologies specific to EVs.