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Each week we take a look with EV specialist and Innovation Origins columnist Auke Hoekstra at what caught his eye on topical issues or what he runs into where the preservation of our planet is concerned. This week: This week Auke tells us that his message about electric driving is finally starting to register.

During its lifespan, a new electric car emits about three times less CO2 than its diesel or petrol counterpart. This is what is stated in a study published yesterday by the European environmental organisation Transport & Environment. Auke is enthusiastic about the study. Not only because the study makes use of an earlier study by the TU/e scientist (Auke), but also because of the effort that scientists have put into this study on the lifespan cycles of EVs.

Electric mobility is the cleanest form of transport

“It looks awesome,” he says enthusiastically. “This shows once more that the government doesn’t have to stimulate the use of EV vehicles in any way. People are looking for the best means of transport, this research not only shows that electric mobility is the cleanest form of transport. But this study also takes into account that prices are dropping and cars are getting cheaper. That sells itself.”

Auke is also delighted with the tool that the study has come up with:

During the lifespan cycle, scientists look into how much energy it takes to produce a car and the battery. And what the differences are between electricity and petrol or diesel. They compare all these aspects in order to make a judgement about which form of driving is cleanest over the entire lifespan cycle. “These are normal things that are weighed up, but this study approaches it much more comprehensively. Hats off to the scientists for investing so much time and effort into this, as I know from my own experience how time-consuming these types of analyses can be.”

Complete and transparent

In addition to the usual aspects, Transport & Environment also takes the energy mix into account that electric cars drive on. “Most studies only look at how electricity is generated at the time of sale. They ignore the fact that the amount of green electricity used increases with each year and is becoming cheaper, so you get a skewed comparison. But this study does take this into account. The researchers leave out nothing and aim to be as exhaustive as possible. They have also included the most up-to-date figures on battery production and do not ignore the fact that this too is becoming more and more sustainable.”

© Transport & Environment

Even in the worst case scenarios

The study concludes that even in the ‘worst’ cases – e.g., if the battery comes from China and the electricity comes from Poland – electric cars are cleaner than cars that run on diesel or petrol. “They still burn a lot of coal in Poland, consequently a lot of CO2 emissions. Even in this worst case scenario, an electric car emits 28 % less CO2 per kilometer (see image above. ed.). If the batteries and electricity are produced in Sweden, where there is plenty of green energy options, the difference is even more pronounced. As much as 81 % (see image below . ed.). As a matter of fact, we already knew this, but this research illustrates this very well. They have very extensive and clear graphs and are fully transparent. And they have also taken into account that electricity is becoming greener and as a result of that, battery production is becoming more and more sustainable. I can pack it in!” Auke laughs.

© Transport & Environment

As Auke says, his earlier study was well used: “They really took it to the next level. Secretly, I’m a little proud that other scientists now refer to me as an authority on electric cars.” At the same time, this golden seal of approval does give him a sense of responsibility and obligation to continue to seek out and publish useful information.

A terrific challenge

“We now know that electric mobility is far better for the climate. This is the moment for me to pass the baton on. In the near future, I’m planning to find out how much impact electric trucks have on the IPCC’s climate scenarios. You know what I mean, those parties that sometimes see things in such a pessimistic way and act as if we’re going to keep on burning coal forever.”

“It’s really a terrific challenge for me. I’m going to work with some of my idols on demonstrating what impact electric trucks have on climate scenarios. Zeke Hausfather, Christian Breijer and Brown, among others, will help in establishing a link with the IPCC.”

Dream come true

We’re also working with Amory Lovins from the Rocky Mountain Institute. He has written a book titled ‘Reinventing Fire’, which outlines why energy doesn’t necessarily have to come from coal or oil. He describes how we can get enough energy from the sun, wind and waves. That implies that we are on the same page. When I was just starting to get a little preoccupied about all these things, he had already been busy for a little while. I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of other people too, but it’s a dream come true for me to write a paper with so many different smart people.”

Whether the IPCC will actually adopt Auke and co’s findings is not yet certain. “I have already spoken to several IPCC lead officers who think it’s an interesting idea. Because we are not out to bash the IPCC, we want to do this in consultation with them. And there are already scientific journals interested in this research, so much so that they want to publish it. While it would be strange if the IPCC ignored our findings, it is nevertheless entirely possible. Except I’m not expecting that. That the NEON got off the ground at all was something I thought was more impossible than that – but we did it.”