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Shades of Green: Electric Cars’ Carbon Emissions Around the Globe

Electric cars have the potential to reduce carbon emissions, local air pollution and reliance on imported oil. So it is little wonder governments around the world have supported their roll-out so keenly in recent years. Although there is widespread understanding that electric cars can reduce carbon emissions, just how effective they are depends on the electricity they use. Given that the vast majority of the world’s power generation is grid-tied, the carbon reduction potential of an electric car depends largely on where it is charged. By comparing the carbon emissions of electric cars in twenty of the world’s leading countries, this report highlights that electric vehicles must be used in tandem with low carbon power in order to maximize carbon emission reductions. It shows that in countries with coal dominated power supplies electric cars generate carbon emissions four times higher than in places with low-carbon electricity. Where power generation is coal dominated electric cars are the emissions equivalent of average petrol cars, while in countries with low carbon power they result in less than half the emissions of the best petrol hybrids. The scale of this contrast reminds us that the climate benefits of going electric are not evenly shared around the globe. Data and Visualization
Lindsay Wilson
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