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Do EVs Actually Reduce CO2 Emissions?

February 25, 2018

By Paul Homewood



This post is mainly a discussion piece. I’ve put my thoughts down, but I don’t insist I’m right!

Drax have this post, based on research by the Imperial College:



19th August 2017

Electric vehicles (EVs) are often seen as a key driver towards a greener future. Indeed, transport accounts for roughly a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and seriously affects air quality in major cities.

To tackle pollution problems, governments around the world are implementing ambitious policies to promote the electrification of transport and phase out ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. The UK and France both plan to ban the sale of petrol- and diesel-only cars by 2040 while India is setting an even more ambitious end date of 2030.

Added to this are EVs’ growing popularity with drivers. There are now almost 110,000 electric cars and vans on UK roads spurred on by lowering battery costs and a growing range of models. Including plug-in hybrid vehicles, EVs now account for 2% of new registrations.

Switching to EVs is an obvious way to massively cut pollution in areas of dense traffic. But the question remains – how clean are EVs on the broader scale, when you look at the electricity used to charge them?

Electric vehicles are getting cleaner

EVs don’t give off the same exhaust emissions as engines, but the power in their batteries has to come from somewhere. Follow the flow back from the car, through the charging point, all the way back to the power station and it’s likely some of that electricity is coming from fossil fuels. And that means emissions.

“They weren’t as green as you might think up until quite recently,” says Dr Iain Staffell, a researcher at Imperial College London and author of Electric Insights – a study commissioned by Drax that analyses electricity generation data in Britain. “Now, thanks to the rapid decarbonisation of electricity generation in the UK, EVs are delivering much better results,” he continues.

In fact, year-round average emissions from EVs have fallen by half in the last four years thanks to greener electricity generation. Today, they are twice as efficient as conventional cars.

Take the Tesla Model S. In the winter of 2012, producing the electricity for a full charge created 124g of carbon emissions per km driven, roughly the same as a 2L Range Rover Evoque. Now the carbon intensity of charging a Tesla has nearly halved to 74g/km in winter and 41 g/km in summer, as the UK continues to break its own renewable energy records. For smaller EVs, the results are even better. The Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 can now be charged for less than half the CO2 of even the cleanest non-plug-in EV, the Toyota Prius Hybrid.

So, the current outlook for EVs is hugely positive – but as their numbers continue to increase, will the demand they add to the grid put their clean credentials at risk?

Will EVs accelerate electricity demand?

The National Grid suggests there could be as many as nine million EVs on UK roads by 2030, which could lead to an additional 4-10 GW of demand on the system at peak times. This, in some cases, could lead to a rise in emissions.

Electricity demand in Britain typically peaks between 6pm and 10pm, when people arrive home and switch on lights and appliances. If you were to charge your EV between those evening hours, the emissions would be 8% higher than reported in the chart above. If you charged between midnight and 6am, they would be 10% lower.

Today, this demand is met by the existing mix of power stations (which last quarter included more than 50% renewable and low-carbon sources). But when there are sudden spikes in demand above this typical usage, the National Grid must call in the help of carbon-intensive reserve generators, such as coal-powered stations. Polluting diesel generators are also on standby around the UK, ready to turn on and feed into regional distribution grids at a moment’s notice.

Commissioned by Drax, Electric Insights is produced independently by a team of academics from Imperial College London, led by Dr Iain Staffell and facilitated by the College’s consultancy company – Imperial Consultants.


The claim that EVs are now becoming less carbon intensive is based on the assumption that the electricity they use comes from the average mix of renewables, coal, gas and so on. But is this true?


The electricity that EVs use is, in fact, additional to “normal” demand. If, for instance, current consumption is 330 Twh, and EVs increase this to 380 TWh, then that extra 50 Twh has to be sourced on top of existing generation.

It therefore does not follow that this extra 50 Twh will have the same mix as the 330 Twh.

This may all sound a bit abstract, so let’s look at some actual examples.


The National Grid hopes we’re all going to charge our cars at night.

If we look at the grid since midnight yesterday, we see that nuclear and wind are pretty much constant throughout.

There is a very good reason for this. Because the marginal costs of each are virtually nil, they can afford to undercut other generators.

The subsidy system for wind means that wind operators can afford to go down to a penny per Mwh if necessary.

Indeed, if all generators were nationalised and there were no subsidies, it would still be economic absurdity to throw away what is effectively free power in marginal terms.



What the grid is doing is maximising the use of wind and nuclear on the grid. The only real exception is when there is so much wind power that wind farms are paid to switch off.

It is therefore dispatchable sources, mainly gas and coal that take up the slack, for instance during the evening. Even at the times of lowest demand, this is still the case.

If any additional demand arrives, for instance from EVs, it is these dispatchable sources that will supply it, even at night when demand is usually at its lowest.

Of course, many cars will need charging during the day, when demand is higher still.


Are there any times when low carbon electricity is enough to fulfil all current demand plus EVs?

According to UK Gridwatch, demand never goes lower than about 25GW.




BEIS figures show that wind and nuclear capacity is around 27 GW, but given that wind accounts for 19 GW , it is very rare that all of this would be available, given the fact that wind almost never operates at full capacity.

It is often claimed that surplus wind and solar output can be stored for overnight use. But this is a fake claim.

Given current capacity, there is never enough low carbon capacity at any time of day to store spare output for times of low demand. If there was, there would be periods everyday when there was no fossil fuel output at all.

If, for instance, solar power was stored during peak periods for use at night, it would simply mean that more power was needed from other sources during the day, as some of that solar energy was diverted to storage.


The bottom line is that EVs, at least under the generation scenarios likely for the foreseeable future, will be fuelled by fossil fuel generation.

Whether this represents a lower carbon intensity than petrol or diesel, I don’t know. But it is dishonest for Drax to claim that this is not the case.


This leaves one other conundrum.

The article I linked to at the start is based on a supposedly expert analysis by the Imperial College.

It is inconceivable that they are not aware of all of the facts I have shown above. So why have they chosen to ignore them, and present a thoroughly misleading picture?

Perhaps the clue lies in the fact that the Imperial College’s research, Electric Insights, was commissioned by Drax. Is it any wonder that their research has been corrupted to suit the interests of their heavily subsidised, biomass producing paymasters?

  1. February 25, 2018 10:54 pm

    Let’s not get bogged down discussing CO2 – it makes it look far more important than it is. When will the EV subsidies end?

  2. J Martin permalink
    February 25, 2018 11:02 pm

    People will charge their car whilst at work if they can so as to avoid charging it at home thus getting free fuel costs. Many who do not have off street parking will have to charge the car at work.

    No doubt the report included output from solar and wind, yet the lifetime output of these sources barely cover the energy used to manufacture them, so they should not be counted. Burning wood for power produces more co2 than coal and so cannot be counted until it breaks even with coal in about 30 years time. Thus Drax are guilty of fraudulent accounting in this report.

    On Twitter, I asked Drax how many years it would take before their wood burning would break even with coal and have not received a reply.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      February 26, 2018 5:39 am

      ” … at work if they can so as to avoid charging it at home thus getting free fuel costs.

      Why so? Any place that has electricity can also have a credit-card reader, or some means of accounting. Gasoline taxes (for roads) will be going down, and this issue is already being studied. There will soon be a gizmo in new EV cars, and you will be billed for miles driven.
      I think the two issues not given the attention they deserve are:
      1: high rise apartments — parking spaces would mostly have to be fitted with chargers**; and
      2: EVs will have no impact on reducing congestion in dense city cores, and might make it worse.

      **Thus, adding another level of complexity and up-front cost.

    • February 26, 2018 8:31 am

      How many work places have a network connection with the capacity to charge large numbers of vehicles?

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      February 26, 2018 9:14 am

      It won’t be free at work. If it appears free it will just come out of your next pay rise.

  3. HotScot permalink
    February 25, 2018 11:21 pm

    I would love an EV, other than the ludicrous cost to by the blighters.

    And other than, like, 40% of the country I understand, I don’t have a driveway.

    • HotScot permalink
      February 25, 2018 11:22 pm

      ‘buy the blighters.’

      I can spell, honestly, sometimes.

    • mikewaite permalink
      February 26, 2018 8:20 am

      I too would like to be able to afford an electric car now that nearly all my driving is local, but the present cold spell raises an issue with overnight charging that I have not seen mentioned much, and that is the sensitivity of Li ion batteries to sub zero temperature charging :
      To quote one source :

      –Many battery users are unaware that consumer-grade lithium-ion batteries cannot be charged below 0°C (32°F). Although the pack appears to be charging normally, plating of metallic lithium can occur on the anode during a sub-freezing charge. This is permanent and cannot be removed with cycling. Batteries with lithium plating are more vulnerable to failure if exposed to vibration or other stressful conditions. Advanced chargers (Cadex) prevent charging Li-ion below freezing.
      Advancements are being made to charge Li-ion below freezing temperatures. Charging is indeed possible with most lithium-ion cells but only at very low currents. According to research papers, the allowable charge rate at –30°C (–22°F) is 0.02C. At this low current, the charge time would stretch to over 50 hours, a time that is deemed impractical. There are, however, specialty Li-ions that can charge down to –10°C (14°F) at a reduced rate. —

    • February 26, 2018 8:34 am

      And the hefty depreciation, far higher than fuel-burning cars.

  4. markl permalink
    February 25, 2018 11:29 pm

    “So why have they chosen to ignore them, and present a thoroughly misleading picture? ‘ Rhetorical question?

    • Bitter@twisted permalink
      February 26, 2018 8:15 am

      Obvious really. This is an EV-funded “research” project. They are paid to get the “right” result.

  5. February 25, 2018 11:37 pm

    NO they increase emissions,
    Most electricity is produced from fossil fuels, most power stations have an efficiency of around 35% add in losses from transmission lines, battery chargers, and battery efficiency.
    Modern diesels and petrol engines exceed that efficiency easily.
    As long as electricity is produced by fossil fuels EV’s will increase emissions.

    • Curious George permalink
      February 26, 2018 12:04 am

      Diesel/petrol cars use transmissions and power trains, which lower the engine efficiency. Please compare apples to apples.

    • Steve permalink
      February 26, 2018 12:04 pm

      Where can I get some of this oil that burrows it’s way to the surface, jumps out of the ground refining itself into usable fuel and lands in my car with no use of electricity in the process? It sounds ace, if a little fairy tale like.

  6. February 25, 2018 11:46 pm

    Added electricity consumption increases demand from the least desired energy source.
    (Which in the perspective of CO2 emissions would be from fossil fuels).

    Regarding energy efficiency:
    “Electrical Vehicles convert about 59%–62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels” and
    “Conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 17%–21% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels.” – The official government source for fuel economy information

    However, the “Typical thermal efficiency for utility-scale electrical generators is around 33% for coal and oil-fired plants” – Fossil fuel power station

    60 % fuel efficiency by the electrical vehicle powered from the grid
    multiplied with:
    33 % fuel efficiency by the fossil fuel machine powering the grid
    Total fuel efficiency is about 20 % for an electric vehicle powered from a grid that is powered by fossil fuel.

    Which is about the same as for a conventional gasoline vehicle.
    (There is also a transmission loss in the electric grid which I have not taken into account.)

    Hence, there is no sense in the Electric Vehicles to reduce CO2 emissions before all electricity generation is done without fossil fuels.

    However, I love my heavily subsidized electric car – free parking, driving in the bus lane, no toll, no fuel tax. 🙂

  7. February 26, 2018 2:02 am

    Here is Lomborg’s take on the issue:

    • February 26, 2018 7:18 am

      That says it all perfectly, good post Ron Clutz. Talking of EVs, has Elon Musk made a profit from the Tesla yet? Just wondering…

      • February 26, 2018 5:05 pm

        Simon, some investor analysts think Tesla might generate a profit in 2020. But the larger issue is all the subsidies from taxpayers.
        Musk’s genius is primarily in the subsidy-seeking realm. By 2015, U.S. governments alone had given his companies US$5 billion through direct grants, tax breaks, cut-rate loans, tax credits and rebates.

      • Bitter&twisted permalink
        February 26, 2018 5:36 pm

        Enron Musk is a scamster.

      • Steve permalink
        February 26, 2018 8:34 pm

        I agree with Ron Clutz here, Elon Musk really has a talent for subsidy collecting, hell if he gets any better the fossil fuel electricity generators here in the UK will be trying to learn from him. Although they are way ahead at the minute. As for turning a profit, I remember back in 2000 ordering from Amazon and people in the office telling me that they would never make a profit and that I shouldn’t order from them in case they went bust, I think it was something like 14 years before they had a year in the black. Struggling along now though.

    • February 26, 2018 10:03 am

      This really gets to the nub of the whole issue. What are the total emissions during the lifetime of the vehicle? Lomberg mentions a lifetime of 90,000 miles for the Leaf. But my diesel van has done 140,000 miles and only now is needing some TLC. If it gets that, it will probably go on for a total of 200,000 miles.

      Then there the total emissions of wind/solar generating power. It’s not just CO2, it’s also all the other environmental damage caused by the mining of rare earths and so on.

      To do this calculation honestly, we need a full life cycle assessment of the car plus the generating capacity.

    • Steve permalink
      February 26, 2018 12:37 pm

      Great cartoon, Hey we need to bump up the amount of CO2 that EV’s use. I have a cunning plan, we’ll take into account the CO2 produced in the production the fuel for EV’s but we’ll ignore the CO2 created in the production of Petrol & Diesel, that’ll fool em… That’s all folks…

      • Nigel S permalink
        February 26, 2018 1:52 pm

        Yes, you might need to buy another couple of tons worth of carbon credits for $14.

      • Steve permalink
        February 26, 2018 3:32 pm

        Nigel S, I’m no mathematician but I reckon the extraction/production/distribution of 90000 miles worth of fuel might be quite a few £14’s. That was all I was after, a like for like comparison. Then people can make a genuine choice based on facts rather than trying to decide which side is lying less.

      • Nigel S permalink
        February 26, 2018 5:30 pm

        CO2 credits are $7/ton so $14 or so would cover the extra life time CO2 from extraction and refining even if it wasn’t included in the ‘cartoon’. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in Norway and use only hydro and nuclear power in your EV the difference is trivial not ‘massive’ as you claimed below at 08:48. Certainly burning wood in your EV via Drax is insane. This wood powered US truck is saner and massively more honest.

  8. Dr K.A.Rodgers permalink
    February 26, 2018 4:12 am

    In effect, is the regular nightly charging of how ever many EVs going to become part of the base load requirement?
    If so what are the principal contributors to the UK’s base load generation today?
    And are these sources capable of upping their generative capacity to meet the demand?

    • February 26, 2018 12:12 pm

      Nuclear could probably do it, if the planned reactors get built before all the old ones get retired.

  9. martinbrumby permalink
    February 26, 2018 4:32 am

    Is Staffell from Bob Ward’s ruinables promoting agitprop group at Imperial College?
    Whether or not, there is a strong smell of fish coming from Drax’s paper.
    It is becoming ever clearer that EVs are about as green as Drax itself.
    Once a lying subsidy farmer, always a lying subsidy farmer.

    • February 26, 2018 9:30 am

      You are confusing a landed MP from Dorset with Drax Group which emerged from the privatisation of the CEGB.

  10. John F. Hultquist permalink
    February 26, 2018 5:44 am

    Until DRAX stops burning trees from other countries — may a pox be upon the owners.

  11. February 26, 2018 7:24 am

    Too much attention is paid to cars when it comes to emissions and CO2 is often included in the pollutant discussion when really it is nothing of the sort. Furthermore, the sooner wood burning is declared environmentally damaging the better. Are you listening Drax?

    • February 26, 2018 8:34 am

      Hey, my wood burning stove is working overtime at the moment.

      • Ian Magness permalink
        February 26, 2018 10:47 am

        Mine too Philip! It’s trying to counteract the effects of the inch or two of “global warming” that has fallen over eastern Surrey over the last few hours.

  12. Steve permalink
    February 26, 2018 8:48 am

    Interesting article. However you make no reference to the electricity used in the production of diesel and petrol. Durely the point is not that EVs are 100% green or CO2 free it’s that they are massively greener than the alternative.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      February 26, 2018 11:45 am

      And you think making a turbine or a solar panel involves no electricity or fossil fuels?

      • Steve permalink
        February 26, 2018 12:17 pm

        Not at all what I said, I’m pointing out that the general argument for ICE v EV is around the production of the fuel for EV’s while the energy used in the production of Diesel and Petrol is completely overlooked. I’m sorry I thought I’d been clearer.
        Although now that you bring up the energy used to create turbines & solar panels, what about the energy used to create oil refineries, fuel tankers, filling stations? You have indeed opened up a much deeper argument in the favor of EV’s that I hadn’t thought of.

    • In the real world permalink
      February 26, 2018 1:21 pm

      It looks like someone believes the lies told by the green loonies about energy used in refining fuels .
      The Kw Hr measurement is one of the most accurate measurements of energy , & the energy used in refineries to produce fuel is measured in KwHrs .But that energy does not come from electricity but from burning some of its own product to power the furnaces .
      Yes , they do use some electricity for lighting & for pumps etc , but most refineries use their spare steam capacity to power turbines & produce their own .
      So , in a lot of cases , refineries are a net contributor to the grid .

      • Steve permalink
        February 26, 2018 3:22 pm

        I’m happy that you agree “In the real world”, the burning of it’s own produce presumably still produces CO2 does it not, I’m not arguing about Electric demand I’m taking about pollution, the title of the article is around CO2 not grid demand I believe. yours truly, a colour blind Green Loony…

      • In the Real World permalink
        February 26, 2018 3:59 pm

        If this article is only about CO2 , then just the production of the batteries for EVs produces more CO2 than the total produced by many years of driving an ICE car.

        And as most EV battery sets have a very limited life & have to be renewed after about 8 years , then overall , total of emissions from an electric car are far more than an ICE .

        A study in America proved than the most environmentally friendly car was a big V8 petrol engined Jeep . Because they usually have a far longer lifespan than most other types of vehicles , & no EVs came anywhere near because of their very limited lifespan .

      • Steve permalink
        February 26, 2018 9:28 pm

        Please; quite a few of the battery packs are actually warrantied for 8years, ever mind need replacing.
        C and C taxis here in the UK have several Leafs with over 100k on the clock.
        Yes and EV out of the factory has a bigger Carbon footprint but this is another study that doesn’t factor in the Carbon produced generating the fuel for the ICE vehicle, only the tailpipe CO2 produced; It’s almost as if they think that factoring in the CO2 produced by creating the fuel might make EV’s look good but surely this couldn’t possibly be the case.

    • Nigel S permalink
      February 26, 2018 1:57 pm

      10% or so is not most people’s idea of massive (EV v ICE, whole life). 10% is also about the energy used in a refinery. Your arguments don’t really work. You are also ignoring heavy metal and other pollution from battery manufacture and recycling as well as in the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels.

  13. Coeur de Lion permalink
    February 26, 2018 9:09 am

    As I write UK demand is high at 41GW, 14% Wind 24% coal. In 2039 I’m buying two Japanese diesel vehicles

  14. Phoenix44 permalink
    February 26, 2018 9:18 am

    Most people will not charge in the middle of the night. First, nobody us going to stay up till midnight just to plug in their car and second nobody wants to be carless if there’s an emergency.

    These studies always ignore the additional costs of these things, like the value of being able to get in a car to pick up a child who is stuck somewhere after a party.

    • Steve permalink
      February 26, 2018 9:14 pm

      Most people do charge in the middle of the night, EV’s have charge timers so you plug in when you get home and it automatically clicks in to use the cheaper evening tariffs.

      I agree that throwing unpredictable variables like kids into the mix will always mess with the results.

  15. Coeur de Lion permalink
    February 26, 2018 9:21 am

    With all this snow expected in UK I’m watching for the first EV stranded death.

    • February 26, 2018 9:48 am

      Yep. What happens to the heater when an EV is stuck in a snow drift?

      • roger permalink
        February 26, 2018 10:22 am

        My neighbour is still driving the fifteen miles to work in her renault zoe dressed in gloves overcoat and scarf.
        I am watching with great interest as the” beast from the east ” intensifies the cold and snow this week.

      • Steve permalink
        February 26, 2018 3:25 pm

        I imagine the EV driver will get very cold and eventually freeze to death if stuck in a bad enough snow drift, while the ICE drive will be spared death by freezing as they will have been overcome by CO, I believe it’s not a bad way to go actually.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        March 1, 2018 8:23 pm

        “as they will have been overcome by CO”

        Not since the fitting of catalytic converters became compulsory.

        You don’t know what you’re ranting about, do you?

      • Steve permalink
        March 1, 2018 9:53 pm

        Fair play CatWeaz they’re a lot safer with Cats although there are plenty of decat’d motors out there. Cats are also massively less efficient when cold so whilst they’re gteat I wouldn’t be breathing to much in if you’re stuck in a drift. You’re correct I’m no expert on Cats but then I’m not sure I was ranting either.

  16. February 26, 2018 9:46 am

    What bothers me about EVs is their range – or rather the lack of it. I need to drive a 370 mile journey on a fairly regular basis. The new Nissan Leaf claims to have a range of “up to” 235 miles. It would then need to be charged which would take up to 4 hours. So my total journey time would be extended from ca. 6 hours to 10 hours.

    And that is on a good day, during daylight. Often the journey is done at night, so needing headlights and the heater. In bad weather I need the windscreen wipers and washer bottle. The heat needs to be turned up. In low temperatures, the situation is even worse because the batteries are inefficient.

    And what happens when you want to tow a caravan or carry a heavy load?

    It seems to me that for load carrying, rural dwelling people and haulage of all sorts, the diesel is still king and likely to remain so for a very long time.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      February 26, 2018 11:51 am

      And range is part of the massive additional cost EVs will need. Where do you put all the cars needing hours of charging versus ten minutes of refueling? And you need at least 24 times as many charging points as you do petrol pumps (assuming you can refuel in 10 minutes and recharge in 4 hours) for any given volume travelling outside their home recharging point.

      So we build infrastructure 20-30 times as large as we have now and all without CO2 production? And all without using resources we could use elsewhere?

      There is NO WAY you can change to something less efficient and think you can “save” anything.It is physically and economically impossible. This MUST make us worse off.

    • Steve permalink
      February 26, 2018 12:25 pm

      EV driving is not for you yet, It’s definitely not targeted at 370 mile journey drivers. The new Leaf is as likely to do 235 miles as my Honda Diesel is to get anywhere near it’s mile per gallon quote. Realistically you’ll get 170miles depending on speend. One comment I would make is that your battery charge times are miles out of date, it’s around 30mins to get to 80% full using a rapid charger. Here in the UK 90% of journeys are well within the range of an old Leaf (80mile ish) and in fact there are a huge number of people that could do their entire week of a single charge.

      • jim permalink
        February 26, 2018 1:13 pm

        Steve, most people will not be able to use rapid chargers off their domestic supply. Most people don’t want to be constained by what distances they can and can’t drive at any given time. Most people value their freedom.

      • February 26, 2018 2:17 pm

        If EVs were so good, most people would be buying them, and there would be no need for subsidies incl the avoidance of fuel duty.

        I wonder why they don’t?

      • Steve permalink
        February 26, 2018 3:11 pm

        Hi Jim, I was really replying to wulfstansghost post in that he regularly needs to do a 370 mile journey, whilst I maintain that EV’s are probably not for wulfstansghost at present the point is you are unlikely to be at home 100 – 200 miles into a journey, In the UK or Europe you are likely to be on a motorway and over 90% of UK motorway services have rapid changers that will get you to 80% in 30minutes. I will follow up that whenever anyone gets into a car you are limited by range (tank size), it’s just that as the range has grown and become available 24/7 we no longer think of it.

      • Steve permalink
        February 26, 2018 3:16 pm

        Hi Paul, It is indeed a mystery, although I believe people stuck with horses for a few years after the Internal Combustion Engine came out. Maybe they’re waiting to see how it pans out. I suspect most of them will jump on board later as the subsidies run out and then moan about how early adopters (risk takers) got a better deal. I’m only guessing though, don’t ask me for lotto numbers.

  17. February 26, 2018 10:17 am

    I did this calculation many moons ago albeit rather roughly and concluded that there was little difference, with the rider that only a huge increase in renewable generation would have any impact.

    In consequence I challenged Nissan over its then advertising claim that the “Leaf” was Zero Emission and took the matter up with the Advertising Standards Authority. (ASA).

    I was interesting that whereas Nilssan took heed of my complaint, the ASA declined to take action on the grounds that the claim referred only to tailpipe emissions and therefore was considered accurate.

    Meanwhile as we dance on this pinhead let us not forget that in a parcel of atmosphere comprising 1667 molecules there is only ONE CO2 molecule at 600 ppm.
    It takes a great stretch of the imagination to conceive that this ONE molecule somehow controls the temperature of all the others.

    Finally: As this report comes courtesy of Drax power station I suspect that it’s wood chip energy output would have been required to be considered zero emission.

    • Simon permalink
      February 26, 2018 10:51 am

      The Drax claim of carbon neutral emissions for wood pellets is fatuous.
      It’s all about the anthropogenic apocalypse money-go-round.

  18. Douglas Brodie permalink
    February 26, 2018 10:19 am

    Total 2016 UK fossil fuel road transport energy consumption calculated from the 12.0 million tonnes of petrol and 24.6 of diesel used (Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2017, Table 3B) was 469 TWh. As a cross-check, total 2016 UK road transport energy consumption which includes existing EVs was slightly higher at 41,450 ktoe (Energy Consumption in the UK 2017, page 10) = 482 TWh.

    Dukes 2017 gives total 2016 UK wind power electricity supply as 37.4 TWh. It is utter fantasy to think, as Michael Gove apparently does, that wind power could be expanded to power all-electric UK road transport. It would need at least a 10-fold increase on 2016 wind capacity, even more if demand were uneven, e.g. a big surge in early evening. It would be technically, logistically, financially and politically impossible, quite apart from the fact that multi-day UK wide becalmings are not uncommon, see

    Solar is even more useless in dark midwinter, hydro could never supply the enough capacity, biomass should not even be considered a renewable as it is unsustainable and polluting. The government seems to be pinning its hopes on international interconnectors because it pretends they are emissions-free but this is a very risky and probably unviable approach.

    Even the Huffington Post agrees that for the foreseeable future there is no prospect of grid scale battery or any other storage technology smoothing out the intermittent electricity supply from renewables, see

    Hence the only realistic option is a combination of mainly nuclear and gas. The overall emissions intensity might be not much different from the present. If they insisted on using unproven at scale Carbon Capture and Storage on the gas the cost would be prohibitive.

  19. RoyHartwell permalink
    February 26, 2018 10:25 am

    Wulfstansghost, you have to remember that probably 90% of policies are made by a London-centric body of politicians who have no concept of a life where a bus or tube train is not available every five minutes and shopping is a short walk away 24 hours a day.

  20. Dave Ward permalink
    February 26, 2018 10:36 am

    “Added to this are EVs’ growing popularity”

    Drivers are going green as Norfolk sees 60pc rise in electric cars

    Sounds great, but the actual figures are:

    “The Department for Transport statistics show that from July to September in 2016 there were 538 electric vehicles on the roads in Norfolk. And by the latest quarter, from July to September in 2017, that figure had grown to 863

    I just wish that there were only 863 cars of any sort on Norfolk’s roads – driving might be enjoyable again…

  21. Keith permalink
    February 26, 2018 10:57 am

    I certainly would not believe anything coming out of Drax, and like any research exercise you find out what the paymaster wants you to say, then you say it, otherwise you don’t get paid.

  22. Crispin in Waterloo permalink
    February 26, 2018 1:37 pm

    The odd thing is that the life cycle costs of manufacturing the renewable generation capacity and the EV’s is not in the equation at all.

    Those mighty batteries and metals and plastics and towers and chemicals contain embedded energy. Importing raw or finished materials is nothing more than displacing emissions. Everyone on the planet can’t displace their emissions to somewhere else.

    Without considering the sustainable case, where everything is replaced in a continuous, if episodic, cycle, we don’t have the answers needed.

    It is just as an important question to ask whether ‘renewable’ generators other than hydro power reduce GHG emissions, if there is some good reason to worry at all.

    Until we have a technical breakthrough on storage, none of this jiggery pokery matters. Electric vehicles will continue to displace others. Maybe compressed air will show its face again. But the long term sustainable technology is nuclear in some form. Waves, water and tides are also attractive as they won’t expire, as will a subsidised power supply contract.

  23. Daz permalink
    February 26, 2018 3:30 pm

    It is not cars that are the problem it’s trucks , nowhere have I seen numbers for transport , trucks burn somewhere between 25 and fifty gallons a day , try. hooking them into the grid .

    • February 26, 2018 3:55 pm

      Add to that the weight of a battery for an HGV. 50 gallons of diesel weighs about 200kg. The ratio of mass to energy of a lithium battery to fossil fuel is about 80:1 at best, so the battery weight will be 80×200 = 16,000kg that’s 16 ton just for one day. However many HGVs prefer to fill up once and do maybe 500 miles or more over two or three days, so we are looking at a battery weighing nearly 40 ton. Ie the weight of the HGV has doubled! ‘Good luck with that’ I’d say!

  24. February 26, 2018 3:47 pm

    To charge a Tesla requires 40kg of coal (or 80kg if you believe Greenpeace!) – for 200 miles in summer (winter perhaps 100 miles). A petrol car would need 20kg of petrol for the same distance. Granted not all electricity is from coal, but gas is also a fossil fuel and what may be got from renewables requires spinning backup from gas/coal anyway.
    By comparison an express steam loco of the late 20s would do the same distance on just 16kg of coal (scaling down from 500 ton to two ton).
    The charge and use waste is 40%; 15% rectifier, 5% internal resistance, 20% invertor.

    • Steve permalink
      February 26, 2018 8:57 pm

      I’m a bit confused why we’re weighing our fuel but I’ll go with you. I don’tknow much about coal power but this guy seems to s he reckons 0.73 tons of coal per hour per MW, a Tesla Model S 100 has a 100kw battery pack so a tenth of a kw is 0.073 tons, it’s range is 250 – 270miles.
      250miles in a 50mpg car 5 gallons ???? What is the equiv Coal / Co2 cost to get this to the tank ???
      I’m not even going down the steam loco route but I believe the routes are quite rigid and I don’t have rails at my house.

      • Philip Foster (Revd) permalink
        February 27, 2018 10:42 am

        I think you mean 100kWh battery (most are 70kWh). You are confusing power with energy.
        The source you quote is reasonable, but Drax claims just 0.31 kg per kWh.
        so a recharge for 200 miles at 40% efficiency will require 125kWh of electricity: 0.31x125kg coal which is 40kg. On your figures that is nearer 80kg of coal for 200 miles. In winter just 100 miles.
        Cost of electricity – assuming you are not being given it for free – is about £19.
        My Yaris averages 50mpg.
        Thus my cost for 200miles is about £28 of which 60percent is tax. In winter my cost for 100 miles is £15.
        EVs are more fuel inefficient than ordinary car and produce about twice the CO2 as ordinary cars (not that that worries me as we are short of CO2)

        The mass/unit energy for batteries versus fossil fuel is around 40 to 1.
        A Tesla battery weighs around 800kg which is the equivalent of driving around with ten passengers permanently on board.

      • Steve permalink
        February 27, 2018 9:23 pm

        Indeed I did mean kWh, thanks for the nudge. I believe they’re available in a 75, 90 and 100kWh spec you might be thinking of the old 60kWh which was actually a bigger capacity battery that they software limited so you could upgrade over the wire at a later date if you fancied. It got a bit of publicity when they upgraded people affected by the Florida storms last year so that they could evacuate without having to charge on route.

        Charging wise I think your charger might be faulty, Tesla quote up to 92% efficiency but owner tests have shown that once you hit 80% charged your looking at more like 75%-77% efficiency.

        So if I take worst case range of 250miles (Tesla quote 319) and worst case charge efficiency I get 100 / .75 = 113.3kwh. 80% of the range is 200miles so 106.6kwh EV drivers shop around for their electric and they charge overnight because it’s cheap. Green Energy’s TIDE tariff is 5p/kWh between 11pm and 6am so £5.33.
        Obviously if you run out of juice you have to charge on the motorway and then you get battered for a charge but as we rarely do more than the range of the car we are on a winner.

        You’ll notice that I’ve ignored the fact that you’re comparing a Yaris with a Tesla Model S, it may have been more appropriate to pick a Merc or Audi but hey ho.

        I’m not sure where the twice the CO2 estimate comes from, the UK grid is probably at it’s worst for the year about now and it’s 427gCO2/kWh (that’s 63.9% fossil fuel which is unusually high). Our Leaf is averaging 0.32kWh/mile this month so 136.64 gCO2/mile.
        The data for a 1.0 Yaris says 99gCO2/km so 158.4gCO2/mile (Without factoring in any CO2 for the production of the petrol, I’ll gift you that this time).

        So at pretty much worst UK generation conditions the Leaf with is probably more comparable in size to a Golf than a Yaris still puts out less emissions.

        Batteries are heavy, I’ll give you that one….

  25. cbsjr42 permalink
    February 26, 2018 4:53 pm

    I would think most people (other than when virtue signaling) really aren’t judging their vehicles by CO2 output. Cost and usability are the main factors. In the UK, perhaps usability is acceptable, but in the US with longer commute distances there is no real comparison. As to operating cost, it would depend on the price of gas (petrol) and electricity. Both are relatively cheap here in most places compared to Europe. I would love to see those details explored more deeply.

    Can anyone point me to that sort of analysis?

    • In the Real World permalink
      February 26, 2018 6:03 pm

      Here is the details of a study done for the Australian Government on costs of EV against ICE cars .

      One other thing to consider is the massive depreciation costs of an EV .
      Trade figures show that an EV loses so much money that a figure of 50p to £1 [ UK ] depreciation per mile driven should be added in to the running cost.

      • Steve permalink
        February 26, 2018 9:06 pm

        Interesting that they pitch the BMW as more efficient than the Leaf, I wuld have assumed the running costs would be very similar, the maintenance cost section is seriously under researched, whilst I admit that the servicing on EV’s is daylight robbery, this is because they charge £150 and only top up the screen wash. There’s no oil change, not oil filter, fuel filter, no injectors, cam belts or timing chains. The brakes last longer because you hardly use them due to the electric motor regen. They are expensive to buy though.
        As for the depreciation, the article is from 2010 so we can actually go on line and see that a 5 year old Leaf is not going for £3k at all, you won’t even pick up a 2nd hand Leaf battery pack for that.

      • Nigel S permalink
        February 27, 2018 9:06 am

        Oops, don’t mention the battery! Here’s Autotrader (ex Guardian ownership after ‘tax efficient transaction’ via Cayman Islands so probably up your street) from May 2017.

      • February 27, 2018 1:33 pm

        One reason that servicing is so expensive is that any servicing garage has to buy a completely new suite of tools, ramps and other kit to be electrically safe. One misjudgment with a spanner would kill any mechanic, leaving an unpleasant gently smoking corpse.

      • Steve permalink
        February 27, 2018 8:48 pm

        I’ve got to be honest I was being a bit sarcastic about the service costs, it’s £150 per service for the Leaf. There aren’t really many consumables, no oil, no oil, air or fuel filters, no plugs, injector, coils, water pumps, cam belts, alternator belts, timing chains, etc. Also the brakes don’t really wear much due to the electric regen. I will be sure to tell the mechanic to be careful around the high voltage battery pack though, that burning flesh really kills the new car smell.

  26. Nick permalink
    February 26, 2018 5:25 pm

    Very good article. Just reiterates that there is always two sides to every story.

  27. David permalink
    February 28, 2018 8:58 pm

    Particulate pollution is a much worse problem in built up areas than CO2. Maybe we should replace most of the diesel vehicles with hybrid petrol ones which automatically change to electric motors in built up zones and then charge their batteries from the petrol engine when they are in open country.

  28. Jack Broughton permalink
    March 2, 2018 3:58 pm

    Some great debate on the EV issue, enjoyed Steve’s defence too. Jaguar are about to launch the I-Pace which does look rather nice. Unfortunately, at £ 63k for basic model, it is only in the price range of wealthy Grauniad and Torygraph readers. Claims 298 mls range for 90 kWh battery and warrantees battery for 8 years.

    I would certainly consider a hybrid if they were affordable, as we are going to be forced to abandon the excellent diesel engine soon.

  29. March 3, 2018 3:23 pm

    I wonder how many EV batteries have been damaged by attempts to charge them below freezing in this cold snap. Buyer beware if you are looking for a cheap second hand one.

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