Our Fleet Product and Policy Manager, Mike Coulton, discusses one of the most common objections put forward by opponents to EVs – how green are they?
Everyone agrees that an EV is zero emissions at the tailpipe but to truly understand the green credentials of an EV vs a petrol or diesel equivalent, it is important to appreciate the source of energy generation too.
One of the most common stereotypes is a coal-fired power station powering an EV driven by a smug-looking driver. However, in reality, just 1.7% of our entire UK energy supply came from coal-fired power stations over the past 12 months. This is significantly less than the amount generated by commercial solar farms (3.9%), and by wind farms (18.2 %). Nuclear and biomass accounted for a further 24%.
The biggest contributor to the National Grid is Natural Gas, which is still a fossil fuel, at 40.3%. However, it should be noted that the majority of this comes via ‘combined cycle power plants’. Not only is energy generated from burning the natural gas to drive a turbine, but the excess thermal energy is also harnessed to produce steam and drive a secondary turbine. So these are highly efficient means of energy generation, albeit not a renewable one.
It’s also important not to forget that a petrol or diesel vehicle is not only emitting emissions at the tailpipe. Drilling for oil, transporting it across the world, refining it into petrol/diesel and then transporting it to fuel stations all over the country is not an emission-free process and is still using up valuable non-renewable energy sources. So if someone criticises the energy generation for an EV, they really need to consider the energy generation of petrol or diesel fuel too.
This is all very UK-specific; globally, many other countries are already far ahead in renewable energy generation. For example, all of Norway’s electricity is generated from renewable sources (mostly hydro) and they even sell excess energy to other countries, including the UK.
Brazil also has large hydroelectric power generation facilities, and in China, huge solar panel fields are being developed to generate renewable energy, so on a global scale, the electricity to power EVs is becoming increasingly ‘greener’.
Furthermore, privately generated energy (residential or commercial) by Solar Panels or Wind Farms that is not fed back into the grid reduces the demand on fossil fuels and increases the proportion of renewable energies generated above. For example, the solar panels at VWFS’ One Delaware Drive generated 5,285kWh of electricity in May alone, enough to power an e-Golf for 4,228,000 miles!
Source: National Grid
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