A Tesla Model 3 Produces More CO2 than a Diesel Car, Study Says

Research out of German think tank ifo is arguing electric vehicles are not the environmental heroes they are touted to be.
Loukia Papadopoulos

A study by a German think tank is putting a damper on the eco-friendliness of electric vehicles (EVs). The research is revealing that these cars may produce significant CO2 emissions both in their battery production and their charging.


Higher CO2 emissions than diesel cars

"Considering Germany’s current energy mix and the amount of energy used in battery production, the CO2 emissions of battery-electric vehicles are, in the best case, slightly higher than those of a diesel engine, and are otherwise much higher," says the think tank's release.

The study, for instance, estimates that driving a Tesla Model 3 in Germany is responsible for 156 to 181 grams of CO2 per kilometer. That is more than a diesel-powered Mercedes C220d which produces just 141 grams per kilometer.

The study is also highly critical of EU legislation around electric vehicles. For starters, argue the authors, the cars should not be considered as “zero” CO2 emissions vehicles.

Not only are there CO2 emissions generated in the production of electric vehicles, in addition almost all EU countries generate significant CO2 emissions from charging the vehicles’ batteries using their national energy production mixes.

Other technologies ignored

The authors argue that other technologies, such as hydrogen-powered electric vehicles or vehicles with combustion engines powered by green methane, offer better alternatives and are ignored at the expense of EVs.

"Methane technology is ideal for the transition from natural gas vehicles with conventional engines to engines that will one day run on methane from CO2-free energy sources. This being the case, the German federal government should treat all technologies equally and promote hydrogen and methane solutions as well," says Hans-Werner Sinn, former ifo president, and professor emeritus at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

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This isn't the first study critical of EVs to come out of Germany. German automotive consultancy Berylls Strategy Advisors issued a similar warning last October saying EVs are not the environmental heroes they are touted to be.

"From well to wheel, they do not really improve the situation. After all, electricity generation – including for electric cars – is still strongly dependent on fossil fuels in many EU countries. The climate does not care whether carbon dioxide comes from the exhaust pipe or whether it is released when lignite is burned to generate electricity or in energy-intensive battery production," said Dr. Jan Burgard, managing partner at Berylls in a LinkedIn statement

Germany is the third largest producer of electric cars after the US and China which are respectively the second and first producers worldwide.

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