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Myth: The Grid Burns Fuel So EVs Aren’t Low Carbon

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I thought even the doubters of electric cars had finally realised this was a myth, but I saw it resurface the other day, so we will have to put it to bed. “Electric cars do not reduce CO2 emissions because fossil fuels generate the electricity on the grid.” Some of it does, but they still do.

In 2021, the average amount of electricity generated and sent through the grid in the UK was 214 g/kWh. For the gas component, that includes drilling and distribution of the gas. On windy, sunny days, CO2 emissions were lower because of the wind and sunshine; the fossil component increases when there is no wind and dark. So charge your car on a windy night.

With 1kWh, a standard electric car will go about 5 km. This is driving and takes into account the losses of the charger when you plug it in. So 214g/kWh divided by 5km/kWh gives 43g/km CO2. As more renewable energy is installed in the coming years, the amount of CO2 in the electricity will decrease, and your electric car will become more environmentally friendly.

No internal combustion engine car can compete. (PHEVs are not counted because they only meet the EV target if they use some electricity and fuel, so they are effectively EVs for that part). A Toyota Yaris Hybrid might achieve 70mph, 92g/km. Most of us consume (not according to WLTP) 40 miles per hour, 160 g/km. And that’s just from tank to wheel. Fortunately, petrol now has a biofuel component that somewhat offsets the oil content in the tank.

An average electric car is responsible for about a quarter of the CO2 emissions produced by an average petrol car.


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