As more renewables replace coal on the power system – the electricity we use is getting cleaner, making electric cars and SUVs better than ever for lowering our carbon emissions.
The latest Electric Insights report, produced by researchers at Imperial College London, in collaboration with Drax, analysed electricity generation data from April to June this year. It showed that the power produced during this quarter contained 199g of CO2 per kWh – 10% lower than the previous minimum set last year.
Dr Iain Staffell from Imperial College London explained: “It is widely accepted that electric cars dramatically reduce air pollution in cities, but there is still some debate about how clean they actually are – it varies depending on where the electricity to charge them with comes from.
“According to our analysis, looking at a few of the most popular models – they weren’t as green as you might think up until quite recently, but now, thanks to the rapid decarbonisation of electricity generation in the UK, they are much better.
“For example, producing the electricity to charge a Tesla Model S back in 2012 would have created 124g of carbon per km driven. Nowadays emissions from charging the same car have halved to 74g per km driven in winter and just 41g per km in summer – thanks to the decarbonisation of electricity generation in the UK.
“Smaller electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 can be charged for less than half the CO2 of the cleanest non-electric car on the market – the Toyota Prius hybrid.”
In the UK there are now more than 100,000 electric vehicles on the roads – pure electric and plug-in hybrid numbers have grown 30-fold in four years, representing 1.8% of new car registrations.
The following table shows the change in carbon intensity of electricity for some of the most popular models of electric vehicle:
|Make and model||Winter 2012/13||Winter 2016/17||Summer 2017|
|Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV||87g/km||52g/km||29g/km|
|Tesla Model S||124g/km||74g/km||41g/km|
For context, a 2L Range Rover Evoque emits 125g/km and a Toyota Prius emits 70g/km based on data from the government’s Vehicle Certification Agency.
At the same time as electric car numbers are increasing, Britain’s electricity has been decarbonising.
Andy Koss, Drax Power CEO, said: “It’s very exciting to see from this analysis by Dr Staffell and the team at Imperial how we at Drax are contributing to helping the UK to decarbonise.
“Our biomass generating units deliver carbon savings of 68% compared to gas power stations and more than 80% compared to when they used coal.
“Biomass is cost effective, reliable and flexible – this is important not just in terms of reducing emissions in the energy sector, but also the far reaching impacts this can have in transforming other sectors like the automotive and rail industries. The need for more flexible renewable power generation is a real example of the challenges Dieter Helm’s review for BEIS must address.”
Since upgrading half of the power station at Drax to sustainable biomass, more than two thirds of the power produced is renewable. In the first half of this year Drax produced 17% of the UK’s renewable electricity – enough for four million households.
Commissioned by Drax Group, owner and operator of the UK’s largest power station and Europe’s biggest biomass-fuelled power plant, the report is delivered independently by Dr Iain Staffell from Imperial College London, facilitated by the College’s consultancy company – Imperial Consultants.
The full report in PDF can be read here.