Continued Use Of Combustion Vehicles Leads To ‘Much Lower’ Lifetime CO2 Emissions Than Driving EVs

A new study finds “the total CO2 emissions will be much lower with continued use of the old but operational combustion car instead of buying a new electric one.”

Image Source: Neugebauer et al., 2022

It has long been assumed that replacing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles with electric vehicles (EV) will lead to dramatically lower CO2 emissions.

But after analyzing the CO2 emissions associated with producing an EV,  the EV battery manufacture and replacement every ~5 years, the power supply of the charging stations (whether coal, gas, or wind/solar), scientists (Neugebauer et al., 2022) have determined that an EV emits only 8% less CO2 over its lifetime than an ICE vehicle does in a country with an electrical grid energy mix like Poland has.

But even an 8 percent CO2 emissions “savings” by switching to driving an EV may be an overly optimistic scenario. With the average annual driving distance in Europe about 7500 km/year per vehicle, it would take 12 years of driving the same EV to realize a net CO2 emissions reduction relative to just continuing to drive an ICE vehicle. (Nearly all EV owners purchase replacements well before 12 years have elapsed.)

Worse, if an ICE vehicle is driven only 4000 km/year there is no scenario – no matter how many years an EV owner drives her car – when replacing an ICE vehicle with an EV will ever realize a CO2 emissions “savings” relative to continuing to drive the ICE vehicle.

And in the case of EVs powered by electricity derived from coal combustion (which is the primary electrical power source in countries like China), the CO2 emissions are “more than 10% higher for the electric car” compared to an ICE vehicle. (In China, over 13% of vehicles are electric.)

In sum, the old, reliable internal combustion engine may actually be better for CO2 emission reduction scenarios than the “green” vehicles favored by climate change activists and governments.

“Ultimately, the replacement of an electric car every five years with a new model, from the point of view of cumulative CO2 emissions and based on our calculations and simulations, will result in more CO2 emissions than the consistent use of an old combustion car for the remainder of the vehicle life cycle.”

12 responses to “Continued Use Of Combustion Vehicles Leads To ‘Much Lower’ Lifetime CO2 Emissions Than Driving EVs”

  1. Richard Greene

    The author’s favorite commentor is backkkkkkkkk.

    The statement “Limiting CO2 emissions is a huge problem today”, early in the study, made me concerned about the bias of the author. I tried to read the report but the print was small and the writing was tedious.

    I wanted to find answers to two questions:

    How long are EV batteries expected to last, and is it assumed that replacement batteries will be installed to extend the lifespan of the EV? Or will the EV be scrapped when battery function has significantly declined.I assume the vehicle will last longer than it’s batteries will.

    Given that EVs are so expensive, costing almost $50,000 for a small Tesla 3 in the US, is it assumed in the study that people will keep their ICE vehicles longer than usual because they can’t afford EVs?

    I’m not suggesting that the US would turn into Cuba, which has a huge number of 1950’s US cars still functioning, like a moving car museum, but I would be reluctant to replace an ICE car with an expensive smaller EV while the ICE car was still functional.

    I just sold a 2005 Toyota Camry last weak that we rarely used — still functional and rust-free after 17 years — I was curious to see how long it would last — I think it might outlast me.

    1. John Hultquist

      A just released report shows, as of May 2022:
      “The age of light vehicles domestically is now 12.2 years on average, up almost two months from last year’s figure, according to S&P Global Mobility. That’s a record high and marks the fifth straight year of increases.”

      There are several reasons. Repair shops are in good shape.

      1. Jimfrey

        Old cars can be repaired; purely mechanical, even cheaper to run if you fix them yourself. I have 3 old landRovers; a 1965 Series 2A, a 1957 series 1 and a 1949 Series 1 (very very early model). They have been around a long time and will be around long after I am pushing up daisies.

  2. Curious George

    Why bother with a wind to electricity – car battery – electric motor chain? Is nobody really working on sail cars?

    1. RoHa

      Patrick O’Brien fans will buy them!

    2. Yonason

      The alternative to sail cars…?

      Minimally-compressed air car – prototype

      And it’s “rechargeable.“


  3. RoHa

    If I may quote Nelson Muntz:

    Haa ha!

  4. Saighdear

    Well it comes back down to Education, education education: about ENERGY ENERGY ENERGY.
    We were taught that if we had problems with particular unknowns, a good rule of thumb in calculations would be to use the Energy Balance ( OR WHATEVER IT WAS CALLED…. lost in haze of time but principle appied very often)
    Here, it would be like the Volkswagen principle: ( from / about the Beetle ) Energy required to produce the complete article + Energy consumed in the ( WORKING) lifetime of the article should be as low as possible. Conflicts with modern mass consumption. Transport To & Fro is also the big killer, just like converting Energy Back & Fore into different states. and then we have SOCIETY dictating how we should , basically, CONSUME !

  5. jouven

    The elephant in the “green energy room” is why we don’t have better electric batteries?, if you think about it you’ll realize what the real issue is. And the bigger issue, that preventing climate change and whatnot, is that we can’t have better batteries because that has certain implications, i.e., energy independence, ironically not having better batteries also means that the “green energy path” will never succeed
    So the options are:
    1 Continue with legacy energy methods
    2 Green energy with current battery tech and “collapse of civilization”
    3 Better batteries but at the same time people don’t need to be connected to the “grid”

    1. jouven

      that preventing climate=than preventing climate

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