Electric cars drive emission-free. There is no doubt about it. But what does the eco-balance of electric cars look like?? And an overall balance that takes into account factors such as battery production, electricity mix, consumption of raw materials and more over the entire life cycle of an e-car? We’ve looked beyond the claims of the car companies at the federal environmental Agency, in the media and with experts like the ADAC and draw an ecological balance: electric car vs. Combustion engines – who is really better for the climate and the environment??
Round 1: CO2 emissions from driving.
This point is basically indisputable: while driving, an electric car emits neither CO 2 nor other greenhouse gases. A car that runs on diesel or gasoline is different. It blows between 100 and 140 grams of CO 2 into the air for every kilometer of road it drives on. For an average middle-aged gasoline engine, that’s about 19 kilograms per 100 kilometers, for an equivalent diesel about 16 kilograms. For the kilometers driven between berlin and munich, the carbon footprint of ordinary cars in terms of emissions is already around 115 kilograms (gasoline) or 90 kilograms (diesel).
Round 2: electricity mix and fuels.
The high proportion of coal-fired power plants in germany significantly worsens the ecological balance of electric cars. the problem: even electric cars from green electricity customers who charge their e-vehicles at e-charging stations in this country run on the same electricity that flows from the power grid into every household socket. This contains more than one third of coal-fired electricity, which emits huge amounts of CO2 – one hundred times the equivalent of renewable energy from hydroelectric power or wind.
A study by the ADAC from october 2019 comes to the logical conclusion: more clean electricity is needed for electromobility so that the climate balance of electric cars continues to improve. in addition to the coal phase-out and the industrial switch to green electricity, every electricity customer who switches to green electricity contributes to the success of the energy turnaround and the transport turnaround.
Round 3: Vehicle production (energy).
If you look at the life cycle assessment of electric cars in comparison to internal combustion engines, it quickly becomes clear that the electricity mix has a very decisive influence on it. This applies not only to the energy required during the journey (electricity vs. fuel). the same effect also occurs with the energy required for the production of the vehicle.
Round 4: Use of raw materials.
Preserving environmental resources is just as important as protecting the climate. Here, the consumption of raw materials is taken into account in the life cycle assessment "electric car vs. Combustion engine. Some rare raw materials, such as rare earths, are needed for the motor and the battery. A study by the consulting and software company thinkstep on the mobility of the future has identified six raw materials that are needed in the production of electric cars, but are only available in limited quantities and are difficult to substitute. These include lithium, cobalt and platinum.
If a quarter of the vehicles produced each year in the world were to be equipped with batteries or fuel cells, the current extraction rates of the raw materials would not be sufficient, according to the authors. Raw material recycling could help in the future. Especially if the corresponding technology becomes even more energy-efficient. The recycling of entire electric cars can already avoid up to a third of carbon dioxide emissions and save important raw materials.
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Round 5: Battery production.
The battery plays a major role in the life cycle assessment of an electric car compared to an internal combustion engine. Not only in terms of the use of rare raw materials for their production, but also in terms of energy consumption. The production of an electric car’s battery is very energy-intensive.
The longer a battery lasts, the better its sustainability. Here, batteries deliver ever better performance in terms of capacity. In a long-term test by AUTO BILD magazine, for example, a BMW i3 achieved the best ecological balance after five years and 100.000 kilometers to a range of 107 kilometers (originally 167 kilometers). Although the performance has been reduced, it is still considerable when calculated over the life cycle of the car.
While manufacturers such as Tesla estimate the service life of batteries at around eight years or 160 years.000 kilometers, the U.S. portal quartz reports on Tesla models that, after 800.000 kilometers on the road with the first battery. Of course, the life of a battery depends on many factors such as climate and use, but such values show that the range of an electric car can continue to gain in the future, especially in the critical area of the battery.
Round 6: intensity of use.
Another important factor in the life cycle assessment "electric car vs. Combustion" is the human factor. Whether an electric car has an ecological advantage over an internal combustion engine also depends on how it is used. The electric car only wins the comparison in the life cycle assessment if it participates intensively in traffic.
Once produced, the eco-balance of electric cars ultimately gets better and better. Emission-free driving is gaining ground as mileage increases. This is also shown by the ADAC study based on a golf class vehicle. Only electric cars, which, as second cars, achieve just 50 kilometers over the course of their lives, are more sustainable.000 kilometers, therefore perform worse in the life cycle assessment than comparable internal combustion engines.
Round 7: recycling.
Steel, aluminum, rare raw materials – up to 60 percent of a car’s valuable materials can be reused. It’s environmentally friendly because it conserves raw materials. It is climate-friendly because it avoids emissions that would be released during extraction and processing. In this respect, electric cars can regain points in the life cycle assessment that they have lost in the production of the battery in particular.
Round 8: Secondary use.
Reusing instead of wasting is always in the interest of the environment and climate. Here, too, batteries, which are often criticized, can score bonus points if they are left alone. This means that batteries from electric cars that have been taken out of service can live a second life as storage units for solar and wind energy. Then bring it up to 20 years of environmentally friendly service life. At present, however, the proportion of reused batteries is less than 5 percent, as the ADAC explains, and the rest are recycled.
Round 9: life cycle.
Combustion engines are more environmentally and climate friendly in production and manufacturing, but electric cars are more environmentally and climate friendly in operation. In order to be able to make a reasonably reliable statement on how the ecological balance of electric cars compares, it is therefore necessary to consider the entire life cycle of the vehicles.
That’s exactly what ADAC did in an october 2019 study of compact-class vehicles with powertrains such as gasoline, diesel, natural gas, hydrogen and electric. Includes emissions from production and recycling, electricity generation, fuel production and use.
The result in the life cycle assessment "electric car vs. combustion engine": in the long run, the electric car wins the comparison because of its emission-free driving style. So after about eight and a half years, or 127.500 kilometers more climate-friendly than a gasoline-powered car. According to 219.000 kilometers or about fourteen and a half years, it has outstripped an average diesel.
Exciting thought experiment by the testers: what if the german electricity mix consisted of 100 percent green electricity, i.e. every kilowatt hour (kwh) came from a renewable energy source such as hydropower? This would not only save many tons of emissions, but also enormously improve the ecological balance sheet of electric cars. Then they would be already after 37.500 kilometers more climate-friendly than a gasoline-powered car, from 40.500 kilometers more climate-friendly than a diesel – and thus even more ecologically attractive as a second car.
Life cycle assessment of electric cars: the result.
E-vehicles or internal combustion engines – who wins by laps, who by points?? As comparisons, studies and tests show, the subject is complex and leaves room for discussion and interpretation. The trend and the latest findings of the German automobile association (ADAC) and the German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) lead to the conclusion that electric cars, at least in the compact class, already have a better life cycle assessment than internal combustion engines.
Electric cars are emission-free and show their advantages with increasing mileage and service life. As far as their weak points, such as manufacturing and battery production, are concerned, they may even have greater potential for improvement than internal-combustion vehicles.
Better batteries, more energy-efficient production, an increasing share of green electricity in the power mix – all of these factors can help electric cars perform even better in the near future. Read our article on the question of whether electric cars are environmentally friendly.
The current electricity mix in germany prevents a better eco-balance for electric cars. In particular, the high proportion of coal-fired power is reflected in a poorer rating, which makes charging or. Refueling and production in germany.
Thanks to zero-emission driving, electric cars make up for their initially poorer carbon footprint in production, mile by mile. After about eight years, they overtake a gasoline-powered compact car, and after about 14 years a diesel-powered compact car.
Particularly in the case of compact cars, an electric car is more climate-friendly in the long term than a gasoline-powered car. Small cars usually don’t make it to the required mileage to make up for the poor balance in production. In the mid-range, diesels still have the edge.
It can be assumed that the ecological balance of electric cars compared to internal combustion engines will continue to improve in favor of electric cars as renewable energies are expanded. The greener and cleaner the electricity mix, the greater the advantage of climate-friendly driving with electromobility.
Electric cars have great potential to further improve their environmental performance. In addition to more green electricity, more energy-efficient production and longer battery life can contribute to this, as can the expansion of a nationwide network of charging stations with green electricity. you are interested in your own charging station? We will be happy to advise you on suitable charging stations for electric vehicles.
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