There are a lot of different opinions about electric cars. For some, they are the latest rage because they are climate-friendly. Critics say the complete opposite. And a current study by the Heidelberg Institute for Energy and Environmental Research on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency shows: Both are partly right. Some vehicles with alternative drives still have a larger ecological footprint than petrol and diesel engines. This is mainly due to the production. But that will change in the future, writes the Federal Environment Agency.
Compared to alternative drives, combustion engines emit more emissions on the road. When it comes to production, however, electric vehicles are ahead. Overall, the electric cars that have already been registered are 40 percent more climate-friendly than cars with gasoline engines. According to forecasts, the climate advantage could increase to 55 percent in the coming decades.
For the study, the researchers looked at greenhouse emissions and resource consumption from production to disposal. The extent to which water and air systems would be affected was also taken into account.
The result: According to the study, in a climate-neutral world, gasoline, diesel and CNG cars (powered by gaseous instead of liquid natural gas) will lose out. However, the “greener” alternatives do not shine in all areas. An overview:
The researchers also come to a similar conclusion for trucks. Battery-powered and electric alternatives also perform better when it comes to road emissions. How much a vehicle contributes to greenhouse emissions depends largely on the fuel used and the availability of electricity. Fossil fuels account for over 90 percent of emissions. However, electric drives are not much more climate-friendly because electricity generation still causes 75 percent of emissions. But all of this is still a thing of the future; the electrification of trucks will only enter the decisive phase from 2030.
The alternative drives for vehicles are not yet completely climate-friendly - and given the current state of technology, they never will be. According to scientists' estimates, emissions could be reduced by 95 percent until the desired climate neutrality is reached. However, “zero emissions” would never be achieved, according to the study. The reason for this is also the mining of critical raw materials such as cobalt, lithium or nickel, which are needed for batteries, among other things.
A recent UN report recently showed that demand could increase by 60 percent in the next three decades and have a significant impact on the climate. According to the report, 40 percent of air pollution and 90 percent of water pollution can be traced back to raw material mining. The Federal Environment Agency therefore emphasizes: “Every avoided journey saves electricity or fuel and protects people and the environment.”
Nevertheless, the study concludes with a clear recommendation for electric vehicles. They are considered an “essential building block for achieving the climate goals in Germany”. In the long term, they significantly reduce the impact of traffic on the climate compared to combustion engines. “Even if vehicles with alternative drives can cause higher environmental burdens in other impact categories in the short term, these negative effects can also be avoided in the long term,” the authors summarize their results.
Electric cars are still too expensive for many citizens. The Federal Environment Agency therefore suggests that buyers of cars with higher CO2 emissions should pay a surcharge.
Sources: Federal Environment Agency, “The Guardian”.