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Sustainability analysis of the electric vehicle use in Europe for CO2 emissions reduction

LL. Canals Casals, E. Martinez-Laserna, B. Amante García, N. Nieto

Journal of Cleaner Production


Electric vehicles are considered the most promising alternative to internal combustion engine vehicles towards a cleaner transportation sector. Having null tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles contribute to fight localized pollution, which is particularly important in overpopulated urban areas. However, the electric vehicle implies greenhouse gas emissions related to its production and to the electricity generation needed to charge its batteries. This study focuses the analysis on how the electric vehicle emissions vary when compared to internal combustion engine vehicles, depending on the electric power plant fleet and the efficiency during the use-phase. For this to be done, the Global Warming Potential (GWP) associated to the electricity generation on the electric vehicle most selling European countries are calculated. Similarly, electric vehicle's use-phase energy efficiency is calculated under a wide range of driving conditions using the Monte Carlo method. The results from energy production and energy use-phases are compared to the GWP calculated for internal combustion engine vehicles for six different driving cycles, to obtain the threshold values for which electric vehicles provide GWP reduction. These threshold values are then matched with the current electricity power plant fleet and the electric vehicle promotion incentives of the European countries considered in the study, showing that some countries (e.g. France or Norway) are better-suited for electric vehicles adoption, while countries like Spain or Portugal should boost electric vehicle promotion policies. Furthermore, other countries in Europe, such as Germany or the UK that are doing an effort on decarbonizing their power plant fleet, do not offer immediate greenhouse gas emission reductions for the uptake of electric vehicles instead of conventional cars.

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