BEVs Remain Worst For Global Warming

A group of German scientists have stoutly defended their claims that like-for-like comparisons prove BEVs promote global warming more than diesel powered vehicles.

The ifo Institute for Economic Research (IFO) suffered an avalanche of criticism from BEV lobbyists following its original report at the beginning of April 2019 suggesting that BEVs used in Germany have a larger carbon footprint than the equivalent diesel powertrained vehicles. However, the storm of criticism from electric zealots claimed the report regurgitated flaws in previous studies that over-stated the mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy used to power BEVs. The spat also coincided with a study by Volkswagen that claimed its e-Golf now boasts a lower life-cycle carbon footprint than the equivalent diesel powered Golf.

Now the IFO have hit back saying critics are basing their models on a Europe-wide assessment of electricity generation, including anomalies such as Norway where 85% of its energy comes from renewables. The IFO says it was focused on countries, such as Germany, that continue to have a high reliance on coal-fired power stations.

Their argument can be applied to many other countries around the globe as pointed out in a 2018 study by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and also by a BP study reported in The Economist that energy starved nations are increasingly turning to coal-fired power stations as the most cost effective means to satisfy demand, a trend likely to accelerate with the growing use of BEV powertrains.

In an emailed response to TU-Automotive, IFO spokesman Hans-Werner Sinn said VW’s claims also only stack up when considering the Europe-wide mix of energy sources. He stressed the IFO’s report was only focused on German energy production and, as such, an e-Golf used in its domestic market would emit 142g/km of C02 throughout its life-cycle against 140g/km for its diesel sibling.

However, even this is misleading because the e-Golf has a small lithium-ion battery and a modest range so it will not be able to carrying out the same function as the diesel Golf throughout its lifespan. Sinn explained: “If we double the VW battery to match Tesla’s mileage (with the 75 kWh battery), the VW data implies that the e-Golf with the German mix emits about 20% more than the diesel.

“In our study the Tesla Model 3 emits between 11% and 28% more than the Mercedes-Benz C220 d. All variants of the electric car considered here are unable to match the diesel mileage. I should stress that these results do not apply to California, given that it has a better energy mix.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_


  1. Avatar Brett Muney 6th May 2019 @ 5:22 pm

    They may be correct in the short term, but coal-fired electrical grids are going the way of the dodo bird. Like Norway and California, most utilities are looking for ways to increase their use of renewables in order to create electricity at their plants. As the changeover occurs, and accelerates, the BEV is going to be a much better choice in regards to CO2 emissions.

  2. Avatar suzuken98 7th May 2019 @ 12:54 am

    I think the battery technology needs to improve just as ICE technology did over the past century. With the current technology, I think the statement is correct, BEV is not the solution. However, I think it is viable for a limited application. A gradual shift ICE to EV (could be BEV or FCEV) would be the way to go, and HEV is there to bridge the technologies.

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