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What does the electric vehicle’s emission balance look like?

Data source graphic: Ökobilanz alternativer Antriebe, Umweltbundesamt 2016 (Updated 2017)

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Electric motors work quietly and are locally free of exhaust fumes, thus not emitting any air pollutants during operation. In doing so, they reduce not only traffic noise but also exposure to particles and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The contribution of EVs to the reduction of greenhouse gases is heavily dependent on the energy source used to generate the electricity they use. A completely emission-free and resource-protecting mobility cannot be achieved by electric vehicles. The “grey energy” which is consumed over the production cycle of electric vehicles – during resource extraction and the manufacture of steel or aluminium for the batteries, etc. – is in some instances higher than in conventional motor vehicles.

Taking into account the complete vehicle lifecycle (incl. production) and domestic electricity production, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) produce  up to 90% less greenhouse gas than fossil-fuelled vehicles. While an average compact car fueled with petrol  emit around 195 g CO2 equivalents per passenger kilometre, the all-electric engine is responsible for just below 95 g, and with 100% renewable electricity less than 25 g per passenger kilometre.(3)

Only the railways produce fewer emissions than electric cars when comparing different propulsion systems. The comparison of eco-balances shows that diesel vehicles not only have the highest emissions of NOx, but they also emit most during daily driving. Electric passenger cars generate the lowest NOx emissions; basically they come only from power production.

(3) Umweltbundesamt: Update: Ökobilanz alternativer Antriebe, Vienna 2017