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How Green Are Electric Cars?

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Debate over environmental impacts continues

How green are electric cars? Are they really greener and more environmentally friendly than the cleanest conventional cars? That’s a question that is dividing opinion, even among green campaigners.

Environmental activist George Monbiot has warned that electric cars won’t solve the problems of car pollution and may even “create another environmental disaster.”

Recently Auke Hoekstra and Professor Maarten Steinbuch published a study that claims electric vehicles already emit less than half the CO2 of combustion engine vehicles.

Professor Gautam Kalghatgi wrote a critique of this new study, claiming that the advantages of electric vehicles were smaller. We approached Mr Hoekstra with a request to react to this criticism. Professor Kalghatgi in turn reacted to that and we gave Mr Hoekstra the final word.

Professor Gautam Kalghatgi says that since much of the world’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, carbon dioxide emissions are simply being moved from driving electric cars to charging their batteries. And once the impact of obtaining the resources required to build electric cars is taken into account, he thinks they may even be worse for the environment.

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But opinions among researchers are divided. A leading proponent of electric cars, Auke Hoekstra of the Technical University of Eindhoven, maintains that the environmental disadvantages of fossil-fuelled cars outweigh their advantages.

The different views of Kalghatgi and Hoekstra are set out in a new Open Debate paper, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation today.

At the Global Warming Policy Foundation we encourage robust academic discussion and in that light we present the entire exchange so readers can draw their own conclusions.

GWPF director Dr Benny Peiser said:

“The GWPF has no collective view on this question, but we are keen to encourage and foster a culture of open and fact-based discussions on all aspects of climate and energy policy. This is why we are very pleased to be publishing this debate between two eminent researchers.”

How Green Are Electric Cars? (PDF)


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