What can realistically be said about electric mobility in terms of it being better for the climate? Do electric cars make sense even given today's energy mix?
Being locally emissions-free is a clear advantage of electric vehicles but the carbon footprint over the entire energy chain depends on the emissions related to generating the electricity – obviously that is also true of all other propulsion technologies and energy sources such as natural gas, diesel or gas /petrol. The distribution of emissions over the lifespan is quite different, depending on the typ of drive. Whereas the carbon footprint of an electric vehicle only depends on the emissions related to providing the electricity, conventional cars cause the main share of the total emissions in . When comparing emissions of different drive options it is therefore important to take a comprehensive approach ("well to wheel approach") that takes both direct as well as indirect emissions of the drive system into account. Furthermore, the life cycle assessment (LCA) offers an even more precise approach because here the production, maintenance and disposal of the vehicle are considered along with vehicle operation and the supply of energy associated with it. Such an analysis of the carbon footprint of an electric vehicle over the entire lifespan of the vehicle shows that the greenhouse gas emissions of a battery-electric vehicle are lower than those of comparable vehicles with a combustion engine, even given today's energy mix in Germany. Specifically, the analysis shows that the average emissions of an electric car in 2015 were 12 to 23 percent below those of a comparable vehicle with a combustion engine. In 2020 that figure is estimated to rise to 20 to 29 percent. Either way, the energy mix will change significantly beyond 2020, given the German energy transition ("Energiewende"). In the long-term, electric vehicles therefore definitely make sense.