Rather than offering a low CO2 alternative to the internal combustion engine, it seems electric cars start their life with an extra 40,000 miles worth of CO2 already on the clock.
Electric cars offer nothing to cash-strapped car buyers that convinces them they are a viable alternative to the ICE car; they’re vastly more expensive (even after tax-payer funded bribes), offer a feeble range and ‘refuelling’ is a hugely time-consuming nightmare.
But there are a handful of evangelists for electric cars around the world who are happy to take all the downsides of the EV because they believe they are ‘saving the planet’ by running a car that has zero emissions.
Of course, they’re deluded because unless you can recharge your EV from pure solar power all you’re doing is shifting emissions from the point of use to the point of production of the electricity used. There are benefits to that – certainly in polluted cities – but it’s a very ‘NIMBY’ view.
But it now seems that even if you can use solar power to charge your EV, you’re still more polluting than an ICE car.
A report from the Journal of Industrial Ecology has shown that electric cars, on average, start life with the equivalent of 40,000 miles more CO2 ‘on the clock’ than a comparable ICE car thanks to the additional energy used to produce the car – especially the lithium for the batteries – meaning it is very unlikely an electric car will have a life cycle long enough to offer CO2 savings compared to an ICE car. And therein lies another problem.
With an electric car run from ‘mains’ electricity, the CO2 ‘savings’ are about 50 per cent compared to an ICE car. So if an EV is to emit less CO2 than a comparable ICE car it will need to travel at least 80,000 miles in its life before it ‘breaks even’. That in itself is a big ask when it takes so much time to recharge EVs, but there’s another problem.
As the batteries on an EV age, they become less efficient. Nissan has admitted that the 73 mile range the LEAF has when it’s new will drop to just 55 miles after five years, making it even more difficult to rack up enough miles to ever ‘break even’ on CO2 emissions.
But if, by some miracle, you manage to get to around 100,000 miles in you electric car – assuming you live long enough to recharge it often enough – then you may have saved as much as 9 tons of CO2. Which does sound a huge amount of CO2, but it’s not.
There’s a whole industry grown up around CO2 emissions as world governments use it as a stick to beat taxpayers, so a ton of CO2 has a ‘damage’ value. Using the spurious cod science on CO2 emissions governments use to justify their taxation, it’s said the damage to the planet of a ton of ‘man-made’ CO2 is about £3.50. Which means the total cost saving for planet earth, assuming you make your life a misery by driving an electric car for 100,000 miles, is just £31.50.
Which puts in to context how stupid a tax-payer bribe of up to £5k to buy an EV is. Much better to spend the money on research in to a truly viable alternative to oil than get a ‘planet saving’ return of just £30 from a £5,000 incentive.
Even by government standards, that’s a poor return on investment.