The myth of the “long tailpipe” – the idea that, because EVs are partially powered by dirty coal, they are no cleaner than legacy vehicles – just won’t go away. In 2012, a detailed study from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that even if it were charged 100% from coal, an EV would still be cleaner than the average ICE vehicle. Since then, study after study after study after study after study after study has reached similar conclusions (and writer David Herron has published a digestible summary of the issue).
However, the myth is easy for Joe Sixpack to understand, while its refutation relies on complex statistical analysis, so the long tailpipe has become a go-to talking point, not only for EV-haters, but also for lazy journalists who want to present a “balanced” picture and, sadly, for policymakers who haven’t taken the time to fully study the issue.
The latest look at the topic comes in a report from Belgium’s VUB University, which found that “Electric cars emit significantly less greenhouse gases over their lifetimes than diesel engines, even when they are powered by the most carbon-intensive energy.”
The researchers modeled the full lifecycle of a vehicle, from manufacturing through battery recycling. They found that, in Poland, which gets a large proportion of its electricity from coal, EVs produced 25% less emissions than diesel vehicles. In the UK, the reduction was about 50%, while in Sweden, which has Europe’s cleanest grid, it was 85%.
“On average, electric vehicles will emit half the CO2 emissions of a diesel car by 2030, including the manufacturing emissions,” said Yoann Le Petit, a spokesman for the T&E think tank, which commissioned the study. “We’ve been facing a lot of fake news in the past year about electrification, 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.”
The VUB study also looked at critical materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite and rare earths, some of which have their own environmental issues, and concluded that, while their use should be closely monitored and diversified, it should not constrain the clean transport transition.
Source: The Guardian