By Damien Linhart.
Poland – Polish Government presented last June the objective of one million electric cars in 2025, but the carbon footprint analysis shows that such a situation would rise greenhouse gases emissions.
Life cycle analysis of the whole vehicle shows that electric car are polluting and sometimes even more than gas and diesel cars. Batteries manufacturing is a highly energy consuming process. But the main reason why electric vehicles carbon footprint can be significant is the way electricity is produced. Indeed electricity emission factor is different according to the type of power plants (coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectricity, windpower…). So greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions of an electric car change a lot from a country to another, due to the type of power plants.
Driving one kilometer in electric car in Poland, where more than 80% of electricity is generated from coal produces more carbon dioxide (about 250 gCO2e) than in gasoline car (180 gCO2e) (1). In Slovakia et Hungary where nuclear power plants produce more than half of electricity, electric car emission factor is lower (respectively 120 gCO2e et 140 gCO2e). The Hungarian government is targeting an increase of the number of environmentallyfriendly vehicles on the country’s roads to 50,000 by 2020 from the current 600, Hungary’s National Economy Minister Mihály Varga said in May. In Czechia, where coal and fuel generate 60% of electricity, driving one kilometer in electric car produce 200 gCO2e.
Biofuel cars produce about 120 gCO2e/km. In France, electric car carbon emission factor is around 90 gCO2e per km, since nuclear power don’t produce CO2 (but however radioactive wastes). Norway is often given as an example because one car sold out of 4 is electric and the government plans to forbid thermic cars in 2025. But in Norway, electricity is mainly produced by hydro plants.
Opening the electromobility conference held at the Warsaw University of Technology in June, Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchórzewski said that widespread adoption of electric cars could make a profit of PLN two billion (EUR 460 million) for energy companies. But one million of electric cars in Poland also represents about 900 000 additional tons of CO2e (half for batteries manufacture and half for electricity production). The Energy Ministry estimated that those cars will need 4 TWh of electricity yearly, so more than the electricity consumption of all country’s trains, tramways and trolleybuses.
“Transport accounts for almost half of total emissions” Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said. “This is the way we have a chance to respond to the great decarbonization challenge set by the EU.” But to make electric cars a real solution to fight climate change, Poland and all countries using mainly fossil fuels to produce energy must first massively invest in renewable energies.
(1)« gCO2e » means gram of carbon dioxide equivalent and is the main unit for greenhouse gases measurement