New UK Study Reiterates: Electric Cars Are Greener

By · May 30, 2013

LEAF plugging in

A three-year research project regarding use of electric cars in the North East of England concluded that electric cars are better for the environment and human health. EVs are also a viable option for most drivers, according to the study.

Funded by the U.K.’s Technology Strategy Board, the three-year SwitchEV study in and around the highly industrialized North East of England—where the European version of the 2013 Nissan LEAF happens to be manufactured—has been logging the driving and charging habits of 44 private, public and fleet-owned electric vehicles to better understand how electric cars affect cities.

The project logged 71,600 individual electric car trips, totaling 403,00 miles and more than 19,900 individual recharging events, using on-board data logging equipment placed inside participant’s electric cars and at public charging stations.

Less Pollution

Taking into account the average power generation mix of the U.K. National Grid—which still has a heavy reliance on fossil fuels—the study found that the average electric car was responsible for 85 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer traveled. The average emissions of a new gasoline car in the U.K. is 140 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer traveled, before taking into account the emissions generated in producing and transporting the gasoline itself.

That’s a difference of 55 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer between an average gasoline car and an all-electric car. In total, the study’s 44 cars have helped prevent more than 76,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Of course, carbon dioxide is not the only pollutant emitted by vehicles. As the study explains, oxides of nitrogen—currently well above safe levels in many major U.K. cities—could be dramatically reduced by widespread adoption of electric cars.

Ready For Everyday Life

The SwitchEV study went beyond examining the environmental and health benefits of owning an electric car. Using the gathered data, researchers at the University of Newcastle were able to calculate the trip length for an average journey. They discovered, as previous studies revealed, that electric cars are suitable for the vast majority of daily trips. In fact, 93 percent of all car journeys made during the study were under 25 miles in length—well within the range limits of the current generation of electric cars.

“We’ve shown that 93 percent of all car journeys are less than 25 miles,” said Dr Yvonne Huebner from the University of Newcastle. “This means that an EV would easily fit into our current lifestyles without any changes to our normal driving habits. For longer journeys we might have to use a second car or use alternative modes of transport.”

The study found that participants could easily extend their car’s range far beyond a single charge by using DC rapid charging—making longer-distance trips of several hundred miles practical.

The research team, consisting of representatives from Future Transport Systems, Newcastle University, Nissan, Avid Vehicles, Simon Bailes, Peugeot, Smith Electric Vehicles and Liberty Electric Cars, hopes the results will help encourage more cities and municipalities around the world to invest in electric-car infrastructure and to implement policies encouraging EV adoption.

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