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The Basic Mistake Made by Critics of Electric Vehicles

Credit: Francois Poirier/Adobe

Credit: Francois Poirier/Adobe

By David Richardson

Arguments that electric vehicles are no “greener” than the electricity they use fail to acknowledge the increasing role of renewables in the energy grid.

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In most countries, motor vehicles are a major source of pollution, and the obvious response is to promote electric vehicles. However, critics respond that electric vehicles use electricity from dirty sources so their operation may not be emissions-free after all.

A large electric vehicle charged in an area using coal-fired electricity generators may appear to have worse emissions than a small fuel-efficient internal combustion motor vehicle. For example, there are claims that a Tesla charged at the national average greenhouse intensity of the Australian grid emits twice as much as greenhouse gas as a Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle. It has been argued that Australia needs to get its average emissions intensity down to 700 g/kWh or less before emissions due to electric vehicles are better than the internal combustion vehicle.

The critics point to the average emissions intensity of power plants in a particular region, and say this shows how polluting electric vehicles might be. Even the supporters of electric vehicles accept the basic argument but suggest the claims of the critics are too high, so there is an argument about the exact figures. But the argument is flawed and the reason is rather simple.

In swapping internal combustion vehicles for electric we obviously reduce the on-board emissions of the vehicles. That is not in dispute. However, that...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.