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When is an electric car more sustainable than a fuel car?

An electric car (EV) is cleaner and more sustainable than a car that runs on fossil fuel. But that does not mean that no COt is released during the production of EVs. Nor does it mean that an electric car is always cleaner than a fuel car. 

This third article, written in collaboration with Mobility Service experts, looks at energy consumption, calculates when an electric car is more sustainable than a fuel car and compares the CO₂ emissions of an electric car and a fuel car in a comparable class . The most important mistakes that are often made in investigations and calculations are also reviewed.

What determines the energy consumption of an EV?

The efficiency of an electric car is determined by several factors. When talking about efficiency, the action radius (or range) of a vehicle is actually meant. In other words: the distance that you can drive on one full battery charge, just like the distance that a fuel car can cover with a full tank of diesel or petrol.

The range of an EV depends on many things, such as the weight of the vehicle, tire type, aerodynamics, and the size of the battery pack. Logically, a heavy electric car consumes more energy than a lighter, smaller EV. However, a smaller car usually also houses smaller battery packs. At the same time, the energy density, the ratio between the capacity of a battery and its size, is getting better. Due to new techniques, the energy density is increasing, and it will become even more favorable in the coming years.

Daarnaast is ook je rijstijl van belang. Rij je agressief of behouden, anticipeer je goed op het verkeer om je heen, en ga zo maar door. Regeneratief, ook wel recuperatief remmen speelt ook een rol. Hiermee kun je namelijk een beetje energie opwekken dan wel terugwinnen. Een elektromotor zet elektrische energie om in beweging maar door licht te remmen werkt de elektromotor als een soort dynamo. Tijdens het remmen bij een auto met een verbrandingsmotor gaat kinetische energie verloren, terwijl een EV deze kinetische energie kan terugwinnen door regeneratief te remmen. Gebruik je je airco veel of zet je al snel de verwarming op standje tien? Ook dat kost veel energie.

Speaking of heating, an EV has a harder time in winter than in other seasons. The battery in an EV performs best at a temperature between 15 and 25 degrees. At a low temperature, the battery packs work less efficiently, which you especially notice in cold weather. Newer electric cars are often equipped with a conditioned battery pack in which the battery is cooled or heated. This takes some energy, but also means less loss and is therefore better for the range. These techniques are also getting better.

CO₂ emissions

CO₂ emissions are a hot item and are high on the political agenda. Because of the corona crisis, you now hear and read less about it, but behind the scenes, the plans and measures to reduce it continue at a rapid pace. The climate objectives of the Netherlands are clear. The Climate Act specifies how much percent our country must reduce CO₂ emissions. It states the following:

49% less CO₂ emissions in 2030 compared to 1990

95% less CO₂ emissions in 2050 compared to 1990

• In addition, the Dutch state must emit at least 25% less greenhouse gases by the end of 2020 compared to 1990. This was determined by the court in 2015 in Urgenda’s climate case against the Dutch State. In the appeal in 2018 and in the cassation appeal in 2019, the judge confirmed the judgment, making it final.

Electric cars can make a huge contribution to achieving the aforementioned climate goals.

Calculating CO₂ emissions, WLTP versus NEDC

When is an electric car more sustainable than a fuel car? Below you will find an extensive calculation to demonstrate this. We make a comparison between these two cars:

CO₂ emissions EV: the Hyundai Kona Electric, with a 64kWh battery (2019)

CO₂ emissions petrol car: the Renault Captur (2017) with the most common engine, the 1.2 TCe 120

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