Study claims electric cars more harmful to environment than petrol cars

16 Dec 2014

Electric-car owners in countries whose energy is sourced from coal-burning power plants contribute more than three times the amount of harm to the environment as a petrol car, a new study suggests.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

The paper’s co-author, Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, claimed the energy required to be produced through coal energy for an electric car creates 3.6 times the amount of soot and smog.

Marshall spoke with AP about protecting the environment.

“It’s kind of hard to beat gasoline. A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean … are not better than gasoline.”

The study looked at electric-car use on an infrastructure basis within the US, as well as the entire lifecycle of a car, including the energy and production of an electric car’s battery.

For Irish electric car users, as few in number as there are, their historic use of coal as their leading fuel source has been scaled back in recent decades and now stands at about 10pc of the origin of Ireland’s electricity production.

US reliant on coal energy

However, in the US, coal energy is still quite high, with at least five states receiving the majority of their electricity through coal, or a national average of 39pc, according to the US Department of Energy.

Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology, praised the study, but stressed that electric cars are still necessary for the long-term protection of the environment.

“Unfortunately, when a wire is connected to an electric vehicle at one end and a coal-fired power plant at the other end, the environmental consequences are worse than driving a normal gasoline-powered car,” said Caldeira to

“But electric vehicles are still good because they move us down a path toward a future near-zero emissions energy and transportation system,” he said. “Unfortunately, given the way electricity is generated in the US today, the first steps down this path to lower pollution involves increases in pollution.”

Electric car charging image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic