In its current test, the German Autoclub did not concentrate only on emissions generated during operation but also on the production of batteries and the whole car. Tesla Model S, for example, is not much better than its oil rival for environmental reasons.

In its analysis, ADAC focused on the production of CO2. Pollutants such as nitrogen oxides were omitted. When calculating the impact of each model, it took into account the German energy mix (the share of individual electricity sources in the total power of all power plants) in 2013, where you would find 23% of renewable energy (33% in 2016).

German experts add to their conclusions that with a higher share of net electricity, the environmental balance of each type of propulsion could shift more favorably to the benefit of electric cars. Combined engines could also be helped by so-called synthetic fuels developed for example by Audi.

The Autoclub compared the different types of drive (gasoline, diesel, LPG, CNG, classic hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric car) in three classes (with the given propulsion always selected the best small car, compact cars and upper middle class cars ecotest). It also took into account two types of energy mix: the one in 2013, even one that counts for a 100% share of renewable resources.

The result was a total carbon dioxide output on 150,000 km, as well as the point at which the impact of an electromobile on the earth’s climate starts to be less than that for conventional or more conventional types of drive. Compared to conventional cars, the production of batteries in electric vehicles significantly increases CO2 emissions already in the production phase.

When compact, so electromobile

In the category of small cars, the electric car gives the most sense to most people. Compared to other alternatives it produces just about 24,000 tonnes at planned 150,000 km drive. If you count on the 2013 energy mix, the electric car is greener than diesel if it has a life cycle of more than 111,000 km.

The problem with small urban cars is that they are often bought as a second vehicle in the family, so they spend less than 50,000 km in their lives. In this case, the power lines are “cleaner” than diesels only if all the electricity is used to drive them from renewable sources.

If we look at the current energy mix, there dominates an electric car with a total production of 22.5 tons of CO2 per 150,000 km and a compact class (Golf-Klasse) is even better than in the small car class. A tight hitch behind it is a plug-in hybrid. Good results are achieved by the classic hybrid (Toyota Prius) and CNG-fueled cars. On the other hand, gasoline engines are worst off with 30 tons of CO2. Ecologically, an electric compact car is worth more than 45,000 kilometers compared to gasoline. If we were to get electricity from renewable sources, the balance would be even better, it would be only 21,000 km.

Diesel is winning in the upper class

Interestingly, however, the results in the upper middle class include one of Tesla Model S’s leading electric vehicles. In this category, with 33 tons of CO2 per 150,000 km, the diesel engine clearly dominates, the electric vehicle is at the current energy mix with 41 tons of CO2 to 150 thousand km second.

If we were to consider ecological returns today, compared with diesel, it would be necessary to drive 580,000 km with electric cars. The first place would be achieved only when all the electricity was “renewable”. The reason is the high power consumption during operation and the need to produce heavy and capacitive accumulators for such large cars.

Consequently, ADAC’s conclusion is quite understandable: nowadays pure electric cars have the greatest sense in the Golf Class, the most environmentally friendly cars are Nissan Leaf or VW e-Golf, on the contrary Tesla Model S damages the climate more than its diesel competitors. The Germans, however, point out that with the increasing share of renewable sources, the balance of electric cars will improve (in 2025, the share of net electricity in our western neighbors is 45%). Even in the case of conventional drives, however, there is room for movement. Possibilities are hybridization, design relief, and synthetic fuels.


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