Electric Vehicles Could Be Indirectly Increasing Pollution In China

Electric cars are supposed to clean our cities from the pollution caused by internal combustion engines. Yet, a new study that shows EVs could in reality be increasing pollution in China.

The Chinese government is determined for the country to become an industry leader in the development and introduction of electric vehicles. As such, it is offering huge subsidies to encourage automakers and buyers to turn to electric power.

The problem is that the vast majority of the nation’s electricity comes from coal.

“Switching to EVs doesn’t inherently eliminate the use of fossil fuels, since the electricity that powers them could come from fossil fuels, which in China means coal,” said Scott Kennedy from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“EVs may just be moving air pollution from one part of the country to another.”

Chinese EVs aren’t as clean as they may seem

A paper published last year by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute discovered that ICE-powered vehicles which use less than 7 liters of fuel per 100 km (40 mpg) are more environmentally friendly than electric vehicles coming out of China. The advantage of ICE vehicles becomes even more pronounced when the environmental costs of producing EVs are considered, The Financial Times reports.

Researchers from Harvard University and Tsinghua University in Beijing also report that production of China’s electric, plug-in petrol-electric hybrid and fuel-cell powered vehicles generates 50 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of internal combustion engine powered ones.

A separate paper from Chinese oil company CNPC found that battery-powered cars emitted more than double the toxic PM2.5 particles responsible for China’s smog than ICE vehicles.

In 2015, 72 per cent of China’s power generation came from coal, a figure that’s expected tipped to fall below 50 per cent by 2040. Still, that’s 22 years from now – and in the meantime, coal factories will continue to contaminate the environment while producing “green” vehicles. Oh, the irony…

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  • LJ

    This is common sense and people have been saying it forever. Until we have cars that run on either hydrogen or fairy dust, there’s going to be pollution.

    • Sébastien

      Because hydrogen wouldn’t be generated or transported by oil powered engines?

      • LJ

        Wouldn’t it be generated and transported by hydrogen powered engines?

        • ProtectOurHeritage

          The manufacturing of the vehicles and their parts would be just as dirty as fossil fuel powered vehicles. Unless you can make cars from thin air?

    • Hydrogen creation and storage means 3 times the energy need compared to a battery-electric vehicle, very inefficient technology. Luckily most car brands realized this finally after two decades.

      • LJ

        Perhaps it’s inefficient as we understand it’s functionality now. Who knows how our knowledge of it will evolve in the future. That’s also why I threw in the fairy dust bit.

        • Unfortunately it’s impossible. To put it simply: it’s always one step more with hydrogen car – you first need to create hydrogen (electrolysis of water) that requires a lot of energy before you can fuel your car. When you have a battery electric car, then the energy you generate can be directly “loaded” to it.

          • LJ

            Gotcha.

    • SteersUright

      Nonsense. Electricity can be produced in a myriad of ways and theres tons of research on that end as well. When the demand for clean energy production is there, the producers will be forced to progress ahead and catch up. In the meantime, there are too many pockets being greased both in the USA and China keeping coal and other old-tech alive.

      • LJ

        Sure, electricity can be produced in other ways, but none are efficient enough to provide the amount of electrical energy needed to mass produce the batteries needed for these vehicles.

  • Sébastien

    So US studies point that Chinese grid use too much coal… oh the irony.
    I’m not sure if lobbies or politic fake news are worse here.

  • LWOAP

    EVs are only as clean as the process used to make them and the source from where they draw the electricity used to charge them.

  • Vassilis

    Nooooo

  • Nick099

    This is the reality Utopians do not want to see. Till we have an efficient and clean energy storage method, electric cars will continue to be impractical on many levels. Instead of product we should be focused on research while keeping ICE cars clean.

  • ProtectOurHeritage

    This is something that petrolheads have been saying for years now. Just because electric cars are “clean” when they are used, the sourcing of raw materials and manufacturing is just as polluting, if not more so.

    • Astonman

      That is why it’s so important to invest in clean energy wherever possible – solar, hydroelectric, wind and etc. People have known that and governments have known that and the investments are increasing. It’s confounding when the present administration counters it by raising the price of solar panels through tariffs. And pushes coal as the choice for energy. Backwards. It’s a process with many gears and to sit back and say one part doesn’t work and lets throw it away is wrong.

  • LeStori

    Diesel all over again.

  • EyalN

    hybrid cars don’t do anything, the electric engine needs more electricity to work.
    plug in works fine but it cost much more than regular car to keep.
    electric cars are good for 2-3 years, the minute you need to change the battery you are losing money. they have electromagnetic radiation, used battery are a big problem….

  • Peter Gaskin

    What is missing is the point that China is desperate to remove the smog from major cities. By replacing petrol with ev, they can breathe in their major cities. Certain they are aware they are just moving pollution. It is not about reducing co2 emmissions!

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