Environmental Sustainability

The Role of Electromobility in Meeting the EU’s Climate Objectives

It is clear that the transition to electrification, and the promotion of electric vehicle uptake specifically, plays an important role in the reduction of emissions and air pollution. On a global scale, the advancement of electromobility can help countries achieve their overall climate change objectives, such as those agreed upon at COP21 and those envisioned in the European Commission’s Green Deal, which estimates that in order to achieve climate neutrality in 2050, a 90% reduction in transport emissions is needed by 2050.

Given the decarbonisation challenges in airborne and waterborne transport, reaching this ambitious target will require the full decarbonisation of road transport.

Commission estimates show that by 2050, almost all cars will need to be low or zero emissions in order to reach the Green Deal’s aims (Source: European Commission, 2020).

It is predicted that reaching the COP21 goal of limiting temperature to 1.5°C, will require complete decarbonisation of the transport sector by 2050. (Source: EAFO, 2017)

As the European power industry has committed to near 100% carbon neutral electricity production in Europe by 2050, the net “Well to Wheel” GHG emissions reduction from transport can be expected to be even higher. (Source: EAFO, 2017)

Life-Cycle Analysis/Energy Mix

On a life-cycle basis, EVs are already very competitive regarding CO2 emissions compared to other propulsion modes.

On an average life-cycle basis in the EU, electric vehicles emit close to three times less carbon dioxide (CO2) in comparison to internal combustion engines engines. In a best-case scenario with a car fuelled by the Swedish electricity mix and using a battery from local production, comparative life cycle emissions are even lower at -80%. Even when fuelled on electricity largely generated from coal, electric vehicles continue to be 30% cleaner (Source: Transport & Environment, 2020).

This CO2 intensity will further decrease in the future, based on the increasing share of renewables in the energy mix. The current average threefold emissions advantage of EVs in the EU is expected to grow to a four times edge in 2030 (Source: Transport & Environment, 2020). Using wind power, life cycle emissions of a Battery Electric Vehicle could result in emissions almost 90 % lower than of an equivalent Internal combustion engine vehicle (European Environment Agency, 2018).

Furthermore, smart charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capabilities, allowing electric cars to function as “batteries on wheels”, can allow energy systems to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, feeding stored renewable energy back into the energy system during periods of lower renewable electricity generation (Source: Element Energy, 2019).

Lastly, the longer lifetime of electric vehicles compared to internal combustion engine vehicles, and technological advancements – for example in the production of batteries – have the potential to further grow EV’s advantages regarding CO2 footprint in the future.

Electric vehicles are therefore key to reaching the goals of the Green Deal, and to mitigate the worst consequences of climate change.