Are electric vehicles bad

Are electric cars more harmful to the environment than petrol? Study provides a clear answer

The thesis arises again and again that electric cars have higher CO2 emissions than gasoline-powered cars, simply because of the production conditions. A current study should now refute this.

Electric cars are the future - aren't they?


If you design a scene of the world as it could look in 5 years (hopefully Corona will then only be a bad memory), electric cars should play a prominent role.

At the last IAA motor show in Frankfurt, the e-car was the megastar. No alternative drive technology is currently being courted by politics and business.

Electric car: more harmful to the environment than petrol?

And this despite the fact that there are always studies and reports that electric cars are not particularly environmentally friendly, on the contrary, they could even increase CO2 emissions. The thesis: If you factor in the CO2 emissions from power generation and production, the electric car is more harmful to the environment than petrol.

New research from the Universities of Exeter, Cambridge and Nijmegen now disproves this fear as a myth. This is reported by the BBC, among others.

E-car: more ecological in 95% of cases

The study therefore comes to the conclusion that in most cases electric cars cause fewer emissions overall, even if they are still produced using fossil fuels. According to the research, driving an electric car is 95% more climate-friendly than using a gasoline engine.

  • Hydrogen cars
    A fuel cell converts hydrogen into water with the help of air. This releases electrical energy, which in turn starts the electric motor. A fuel cell does not produce any emissions, only water is released.
  • Natural gas cars
    Natural gas cars have a conventional engine. But it is not (only) operated with gasoline, but with gas. Most natural gas cars also have a gas tank.
  • Electric cars
    They are powered by an electric motor that draws its energy from a battery. The heart of most modern electric cars are lithium-ion batteries

Exceptions, however, are countries like Poland, where electricity generation is still largely based on coal. In countries like Sweden or France, on the other hand, where most of the electricity comes from renewable energies and nuclear power, emissions are up to 70% lower over the life of a car. In other words, the more countries rely on alternative energy generation in the future, the more environmentally friendly the electric car will be.

Every second car will be electric by 2050

In their study, the scientists predict that by 2050 every second car on the world's roads will have an electric motor under the hood. That would reduce global CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 gigatons per year - that's equivalent to all of Russia's current CO2 emissions.

However, this does not mean that the electric car is undisputed.

“Electric vehicles are not a panacea for making road traffic climate- and environmentally friendly. Last but not least, a liveable city needs more public transport, more bicycle traffic and short distances between the workplace, the apartment and the existing shops, ”says Philipp Altinsoy from the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences to

Criticism: "Inhuman extraction of rare earths"

He is a research associate in the Research Lab for Urban Transport there. Although the CO2 emissions may be lower, other factors also have to be taken into account when it comes to e-mobility. The use of raw materials for electric cars is higher than for conventional vehicles.

“In particular, the inhuman extraction of rare earths and their enormous consumption of resources during extraction are often neglected,” says Altinsoy.

If these considerations are incorporated into the development, then electric vehicles could make an important and, above all, an increasing contribution to climate protection, says Altinsoy. “This lead will continue to grow, because the share of renewable energies in electricity generation is growing steadily. In ten years at the latest, renewable energies should already cover the majority of Germany's electricity needs. "

>> Read also: Raw materials and their occurrence at a glance

Ifo study relies on hydrogen methane technology

However, some studies do not certify the electric car will have a bright future. In an article by the Institute for Economic Research (Ifo) it says: “It cannot be said that the introduction of electric cars will in itself lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions in traffic, as the EU directive for the calculation of the fleet consumption suggests, which is assumed by electric cars with zero CO2 emissions. The opposite is the case. With today's energy mix in Germany and taking into account the energy required for battery production, the CO2 emissions of battery-electric cars are only in the best-case scenario comparable to those of a diesel engine. "

Rather, the authors advocate hydrogen-methane technology. “On the one hand, it is the only long-term way to store the excess power peaks from wind and solar power, which is necessary if the market share of this form of renewable power is to be expanded. On the other hand
it offers the possibility of considerable CO2 savings right from the start, even if this methane comes from fossil sources. "

Meanwhile, a study by the management consultancy Uscal recently showed that some drivers of electric cars are not necessarily satisfied with their mobiles. According to this, only 59 percent of the approximately 1200 respondents would recommend an e-car of their brand.

Also read:

Natural gas drive: is that the alternative to the electric car?

10 facts about electric cars

The 10 most popular e-cars among Germans

A contribution by:

  • Peter Seven

    Peter Sieben is content manager and responsible editor for After an internship at the Funke media group, he worked as an editor and reporter in various departments. He writes about technology, research and career topics.