When ‘Which’ magazine recently published an article arguing that electric cars were barely cleaner than diesel cars the story was of course immediately picked up by the sort of publications you’d expect to jump on such a tale. The Daily Mail and the Register (is there a difference, discuss) ran with it big time. One of the many advantages/disadvantages of Twitter is that I get sent links to these stories every day.
I don’t go out looking for them, I don’t need to and it’s great, if you’ve ever sent me a link to a story like this please don’t stop.
I read the article, it was dull, repetitive (like I often am on this subject) and of course factually and scientifically incorrect.
They did the tired old comparison of what comes out of the tailpipe of a car with an internal combustion engine, and what comes out of the smoke stack of an electricity generating plant which powers an electric car.
But here’s a figure which just slightly alters the equation.
In 2005, the oil refineries in the UK consumed 5,624,000,000 kWh of electricity. As you may be able to guess from the amount, this wasn’t to run the lights in the office or the telly in the night watchman’s cubicle by the gate. This is how much they used to refine petrol, diesel, jet fuel, LPG etc. It tots up to nearly 20% of all the power generated in this country.
Now, I’m going to ask a stupid, facetious question. Was this figure and the obvious carbon impact it implies included in the Which report?
I’ll now answer that in an equally annoying, know all, holier-than-thou way.
No, ladies and gentlemen, it was not.
Are figures like this included in the much touted ‘tail pipe emissions’ of modern, drill and burn cars?
Another annoying answer. No ladies and gentlemen, they are not.
So the question Which magazine asked is flawed, along with the answer.
There are only two fair ways to compare the two technological systems.
1. What comes out of the car when it drives along?
Car with internal combustion engine. Between 80 and 500 grams of Co2 per kilometer
Car with electric motor. Zero.
2. If you take into account the output of the energy source as well as the tailpipe emissions, the drilling, storage, pumping, transportation, refining, burning, waste management, fighting, security, and management?
Car with internal combustion engine. Between 350 and 1500 grams of Co2 per kilometer.
Car with electric motor. Between 40 and 90 grams of Co2 per kilometer.
So, there’s your answer. An electric car is so much cleaner it’s embarrassing.