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Electric Cars - The Power Stations Chimney Debate

Supporters of electric vehicles say that they are environmentally friendly in every sense. Opponents say that EVs are `net polluters' - in that more CO2 and other undesirable emissions are given off by the power station chimney than if the fuel were burnt in the car engine.

We have used the data derived from our own Ford Fiesta fitted with Lynch electric motors and running in average London traffic to try to illuminate this debate with facts rather than assertions, as seems to be commonly the case at present.

The Ford Fiesta has 7.5 kilowatt hours (Units) of usable electrical energy in its 300 Kg lead-acid battery pack, which gives it a range of over 50 miles (81 Km) when driven in London traffic - that is, 10.8 Km per KWhr (units of electric power).

A carefully researched paper by Jean Delsey* for the 1992 OECD Conference on electric vehicles, using automobile and electricity industry figures, gives the following emissions for petrol cars, in grams per Km under urban conditions, and for power stations (fuels averaged, excluding nuclear power) in grams per KWhr (Unit) generated:

So it seems that, even running on conventionally-generated power, a typical electric car creates only 77% of the CO2 of a petrol car. If the electricity were generated by Combined Heat and Power (CHP) or renewables (solar or wind power) the improvement would be even greater.

These figures are remarkable and we invite others to verify or disprove them. Jean Delsey,` Environmental comparison of electric, hybrid and advanced heat engine vehicles', INRETS, 109 Av Salvador Allende, 69500 BRON, France, 1992

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