Busting electric car myths: just how green is an EV? | Top Gear
Advertisement
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Electric

Busting electric car myths: just how green is an EV?

The myth is that because the grid burns fuel, EVs aren't low carbon. Here's the truth

Published: 07 Jun 2022
 comments

MYTH: the grid burns fuel so EVs aren't low carbon

I thought even electric-car doubters had finally grasped that this is a myth, but I saw it crop up again the other day, so we need to lay it to rest. "Electric cars don't reduce CO2 because grid electricity is generated with fossil fuels." Some of it is, but nevertheless they do.

In 2021 UK electricity took 214g/kWh on average to generate and send through the grid. That includes, for the gas component, the drilling and distribution of the gas. On windy, sunny days, CO2 was less because of all the wind and solar; with no wind and darkness the fossil content rises. So charge your car on a windy night.

Advertisement - Page continues below

Now, 1kWh will get a normal EV about 5km. That's real-world driving, and accounting for onboard charger losses when you plug it in. So 214g/kWh divided by 5km/kWh equals 43g/km CO2. As more renewables are installed in coming years, the embedded CO2 in electricity will fall and your EV will get greener.

No combustion car can get close. (Don't count PHEVs because they only beat the EV target if they use some electricity as well as the fuel, so they're effectively being EVs for that portion.) A Toyota Yaris hybrid might crack 70mpg, which is 92g/km.  Most of us get an actual, not WLTP, petrol consumption of 40mpg, meaning 160g/km. And that's just tank-to wheel. Luckily petrol now has a biofuel component which somewhat offsets the well-to-tank oil portion.

So, round figures, an average EV is responsible for about a quarter of the CO2 in driving than an average petrol car.

Advertisement - Page continues below

Top Gear
Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

More from Top Gear

Loading
See more on Electric

Promoted Content

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.