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Climate impacts of electric cars

Influencing factors and potential for improvement

Duration

March 2018 to April 2019

Commissioned by

Agora Verkehrswende

Project description

Electric cars are considered to be an important element in the decarbonisation of the transport sector and are therefore a central aspect of the change in transport policies. However, electric cars are frequently criticised for their climate impact. Aspects of this criticism are often repeated in the media and sometimes inadequate comparisons are made. Recurring elements are:

  • Electric cars are more harmful to the climate than vehicles with combustion engines because there is so much coal-based electricity power in Germany
  • Electric cars are harmful to the environment because the production of the electric car (especially battery production) produces more emissions than the production of a conventional vehicle

Unfortunately, the public debate often confuses different topics like: air quality, climate balance, questions of the availability of raw materials and social aspects of production.

Due to the complexity of the discussion and the lack of comparability of a whole series of studies, there is uncertainty about the actual environmental impact of electric cars. This makes the public debate more difficult and unsettles politics and consumers. The project “Climate Balance of Electric Cars – Influencing Factors and Potential for Improvement” of the Agora Transport Change should help to explain different results of climate balance, to systematise the discussion for politics and consumers and to present results transparently. For this purpose, bandwidths and central influencing parameters of current climate balance sheets were first worked out (meta-study) in order to point out possible potential for improvement along the vehicle life cycle (especially in battery production) during the course of the project.

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