Page 16 - European Energy Innovation - autumn 2017 publication
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16  Autumn 2017 European Energy Innovation


Electric vehicles:

sparking your interest                                                                  As far as CO2 goes, diesel engines
                                                                                        exhaust 20% less in comparison to
While climate change sparks interest in electric vehicles, it raises                    petrol. Yet the difference between
questions as well. Professor Joeri Van Mierlo (pictured) from the                       both fuels is annually decreasing.
MOBI research group at Vrije Universiteit Brussel tackles them one                      Also biofuels produce 40 to 60%
by one.                                                                                 less greenhouse gasses, but they do
                                                                                        not significantly improve air quality.
Climate change, local air                 ARE ELECTRIC VEHICLES REALLY                  Moreover, we need surfaces as large
              pollution and the economic  THE BEST SOLUTION FOR THE                     as 2 football fields to power one car
              dependency on imported      ENVIRONMENT?                                  per year. We do not have the space in
              oil requires solutions to   The short answer is yes. When                 Europe and would therefore move this
these severe issues. The transportation   discussing environmental impact, it
sector is responsible for more than       is important to take into account the
20% of the global warming emission,       full life cycle of a vehicle. We have
more than 50% of the NOx emissions        developed at the Vrije Universiteit
in Europe and 25% of the PM emission,     Brussels reliable scientific models
harming our human health. Another         for this purpose. This allows looking
striking figure is the billon a day       beyond emissions from the vehicle
Europe is exporting out of its economy    itself to the environmental impact of
to import crude oil. Without no doubt,    batteries, the production of electricity
we must find alternatives in the          and beyond.
transportation sector.
                                          In a full life cycle, electric vehicles emit
Modal shift from passenger cars           two times less carbon dioxide (CO2)
towards walking, biking and public        in comparison to diesel engines if we
transportation is needed. But as the      take the European electricity mix. This
use of private cars is a dominant         can be even 4 times less is we take for
transport mode, one needs to find         example the Belgian electricity mix.
technical solutions for environmental     If cars were driving on sustainable
friendly vehicles too.                    electricity, carbon dioxide emissions
                                          could be further reduced by a factor of
                                          15. And this is the way to go.

                                          If we look at vehicles from a “well-to-
                                          wheel” perspective, electric vehicles
                                          produce four times less particulates
                                          and 20 times less nitrogen oxides
                                          (NOx) (Belgian example) compared to
                                          conventional vehicles. However, we
                                          need to stress that the exploitation
                                          and mining of raw materials in South
                                          America and China leaves much
                                          room for improvement. Recycling
                                          can further reduce the environmental
                                          impact. Car manufacturers have
                                          already made considerable efforts to
                                          reduce emissions of conventional cars
                                          in general however; reducing NOx
                                          remains a challenge, in particular for
                                          diesel vehicles.

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