The part of Italy currently in power, which is opposed to any form of green transition, raised a chorus of celebration on Friday after the postponement of the vote on stopping the sale of newly registered gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles from 2035.
For Matteo Salvini’s Lega, “the road ahead is still long, but we will not sell out to China.” According to the Minister of Enterprise and Made in Italy, Adolfo Urso, Italy did no less than “wake Europe up,” as if it were a sensible thing to stop the transition to engines which, unlike gasoline or diesel ones, do not lead to an increase in the concentration of fine particulate matter, the cause of nearly 60,000 premature deaths a year in our country.
Urso hopes “that there will now be a common reflection for sustainable competitiveness in the automotive sector as well,” as if the European strategy had not been agreed together with the manufacturers’ association.
A note from the Minister of the Environment and Energy Security, Gilberto Pichetto, also sounded jarring, attacking “an approach of the Regulation that is too ideological and not very concrete.” According to the minister, “electric cannot be the only solution of the future, and all the more so if it continues to be a niche for the few, as it is today.”
Nonetheless, as we are reminded by a statement released on Friday by the Ecco climate think tank, an organization of climate change researchers, CO2 emissions over the entire lifecycle of an electric car (from production to use to disposal), given the average European electricity mix, are 55% lower than those of an internal combustion vehicle of the same weight and power that runs on gasoline, and 47% lower than an equivalent diesel vehicle. Ecco cites a 2020 study by Ricardo Energy&Environment on the “Life Cycle Assessment” (LCA) of electric cars, conducted for the European Commission.
The differences in emissions highlighted will only increase further in the coming years, under a scenario of increased electricity generation from renewable sources, which is inherently a part of the European Fit for 55% strategy. Ecco adds that by 2030, the emissions reduction achieved by replacing a gas-powered car with an electric car will reach 72%, and in a 2050 scenario that would be compatible with keeping global warming within 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels, the reduction will go up to 80%.
There are also other, more recent independent analyses that have dealt with the life cycle assessment of electric cars, conducted by the International Council of Clean Transportation (ICCT) in 2021 and Transport and Environment (T&E) in 2022, and they reach very similar conclusions to those of Ricardo Energy&Environment.
In essence, the three studies disprove the widespread fake news that the emissions of an electric car over its entire life cycle (including production and disposal, not just use) are higher than those of a car with an internal combustion-engine, i.e. powered by gasoline or diesel.
This fake news stems from the false belief that the extraction of materials to build power batteries actually emits a lot of CO2, especially in China, where electricity comes largely from coal. It is true that electric cars produced in the Asian country, because of the “dirty” electric mix, have a 35% higher carbon footprint than cars produced in Europe, where more green energy is used, but an electric car still produces fewer emissions overall than one with an internal combustion engine, according to 2022 research by the Caracciolo Foundation (the Automobile Club of Italy’s research center).
In its statement on Friday, Ecco went on to cite research by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) from 2020 on CO2 emissions from cars linked to use alone, “from the well to the wheel,” which adds together tailpipe emissions and those coming from production cycle of the fuels or electricity consumed. With the current electricity mix in the EU, the “well-to-wheel” CO2 emissions of an electric vehicle are up to 75% lower than those generated by a similar internal combustion vehicle powered by fossil fuels, and about 25% lower than a plug-in hybrid vehicle.
In other words, an electric car travels four times the distance covered by a gasoline-powered car before it reaches the same level of emissions.
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