Renewable energy boost allows for reduction in EV pollution

A new study has found that electric vehicles (EVs) are more environmentally friendly than they were five years ago, based on the energy they draw from the UK’s National Grid, affirming their use in reducing pollution.

The research has been carried out by Imperial College London, and was commissioned by power supplier Drax. It suggests that due to the increase in renewable energy production such as solar farms and wind turbines, the amount of CO2 produced by charging an EV has dropped considerably. For example, charging a Tesla Model S would create around 124 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/km) in 2012, however this is halved to 74g/km in winter and 41g/km in summer. The seasonal difference is down to the energy generated by solar farms, which is far less in colder and darker months. The shortfall is instead made up by gas power stations.

Dr Iain Staffell from Imperial College London explains: ‘It is widely accepted that electric cars dramatically reduce air pollution in cities, but there is still some debate about how clean they actually are – it varies depending on where the electricity to charge them with comes from.

‘According to our analysis, looking at a few of the most popular models – they weren’t as green as you might think up until quite recently, but now, thanks to the rapid decarbonisation of electricity generation in the UK, they are much better. Smaller electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 can be charged for less than half the CO2 of the cleanest non-electric car on the market – the Toyota Prius hybrid.’

To use small cars as an example, the Nissan Leaf uses 58g/km in winter and 32g/km in summer, compared with 97g/km in 2012, while the BMW i3 uses 48g/km (winter) and 27g/km (summer) compared to 81g/km in 2012. For context, a 2 litre Range Rover Evoque emits 125g/km and a Toyota Prius emits 70g/km based on data from the government’s Vehicle Certification Agency.

Read more: Autovista Group

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