In terms of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, electric cars require more energy to manufacture so on average have higher embedded GHG emissions than a petrol or diesel car. However even when using UK grid electricity to recharge the car this is more than offset during the car’s use. Over an average car’s life an electric car will usually be responsible for around 30% – 50% less GHG emissions than an equivalent petrol or diesel car when manufacture, use and disposal is considered. Using renewable electricity to recharge reduces this further.
To reduce the embedded GHG emissions when choosing an electric car, pick the smallest battery capacity that meets your needs. On average a 33 kWh battery will be responsible for around 5 tonnes CO2 whereas a 100 kWh battery will be responsible for around 15 tonnes of CO2. If you need an electric car with a larger battery, consider carbon offsetting; 15 tonnes of CO2 costs approximately £110 to offset.
Some car manufacturers are investing in renewable energy at their manufacturing sites which means that whilst the energy required to manufacture an electric car is still higher, the GHG emissions may not be. Try to pick a car from a manufacturer that is reducing embedded emissions and look for any information on the lifecycle emissions of the specific model you are interested in to make an informed decision.
The UK electricity grid is rapidly reducing its GHG emissions. Every kWh of electricity now emits around 60% less GHG than it did in 2008. This is mostly due to coal being phased out and natural gas and renewable generation being increased. The electricity grid is planning to reduce GHG further which means the GHG emissions associated with recharging electric cars in the UK reduces every year, something that can’t be said for petrol and diesel cars.