Lower carbon electricity system “offsetting EV battery emissions”

Electric vehicles (EVs) in Britain emit one quarter of the CO2 of conventional petrol and diesel cars, on average, according to new research.

Carried out by Imperial College London on behalf of Drax Electric Insights, the research also showed that, if the carbon emitted in making the EV battery is included, CO2 emissions are still just half of those of a conventional vehicle. Furthermore, after two to three years, the carbon emitted in producing the batteries for the most efficient EVs will have been saved. Larger models could need three times longer to pay back carbon cost, with smaller EVs including modest battery sizes considered better for the environment.

The research also found increasing decarbonisation of electricity supply as the UK works to its 2050 net-zero target is ensuring that EVs can become even more environmentally friendly. In five years, EVs bought today could emit just a tenth of the CO2 from a petrol car.   

Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London said: “An electric vehicle in the UK simply cannot be more polluting than its petrol or diesel equivalent – even when taking into account the upfront ‘carbon cost’ of manufacturing their batteries. The carbon content of Britain’s electricity has halved in recent years and keeps on falling, whereas conventional engine vehicles have very limited scope to reduce emissions over their lifetime. Any EV bought today could be emitting just a tenth of what a petrol car would in as little as five years’ time, as the electricity it uses to charge comes from an increasingly low-carbon mix.”

Drax Electric Insights