Electric Cars Are Half As Polluting As Diesel Over Their Entire Lifespan

Even when the primary source of power comes from fossil fuels, electric cars still emit less carbon over their lifespan. Scharfsinn/Shutterstock

It is commonly said that while electric cars might have zero direct carbon emissions, they are in reality as polluting (or more so) than standard cars, as the electricity has to come from somewhere, right?

As the debate continues to swirl about the damage that diesel cars are now doing to our health and the environment, a new study shows that it is a no-brainer to switch from fossil fuels to electricity, even when manufacturing and generation is taken into account. The latest research shows that, on average, an electric car will emit 50 percent less carbon over its entire lifetime than a diesel-powered vehicle, The Guardian reports


“We’ve been facing a lot of fake news in the past year about electrification put out by the fuel industry, but in this study you can see that even in Poland today, it is more beneficial to the climate to drive an electric vehicle than a diesel,” Yoann Le Petit, who is the spokesperson for the think tank that commissioned the study, told The Guardian.

The team, based at VUB University in Belgium, modeled the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted through the manufacturing and powering of electric cars across different countries in Europe. This is an important distinction to make, because different countries generate electricity in different ways, with some having much greener credentials than others. This means that a one-size-fits-all policy is difficult to create when it comes to cutting emissions from transport.

They found that in Sweden, which is one of the most eco-friendly when it comes to energy generation, the electric car cuts emissions by a staggering 85 percent compared to diesel. Even in a country like Poland, which still relies heavily on coal for power, there are significant benefits to be had, with carbon emissions being slashed by 25 percent. When taken as an average, the work shows that electric cars are around half as polluting as diesel varieties over their entire lifetime.

While this is clearly a brilliant thing and means that there are even fewer excuses not to make the switch to electric or even just hybrid varieties, there are still some limitations in terms of increasing the scale and scope of their use.


The main issue surrounds some of the raw materials needed for the batteries. The rare Earth materials needed are, as the name suggests, not very abundant. The team suggest that these substances be closely monitored and that manufactures should strive to diversify.

As more and more nations and cities move towards a greener future, this is a good sign of things to come. 

[H/T The Guardian]


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