Energy

Study: Coal Powered Electric Vehicles Make Europe More Dependent On Fossil Fuels

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Research shows that the Norway’ growing electric vehicle market forces the country to be more dependent on coal-fueled power plants — but, according to the researchers, this is a good thing for the climate.

In short, burning coal to fuel carbon-cutting electric vehicles moves the climate justice ball forward.

Ove Wolfgang, a research scientist at SINTEF, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia, and his assistants — Steve Völler and Magnus Korpås — calculated that half of all new electricity Europe needs for the powering of electric cars would come from coal-fueled powered stations.

But, if every electric car in Norway is plugged into the electric grid by 2020, as Wolfgang’s research shows, then Europe will have to produce more coal-burning electricity to meet the demand.

The study used its “crystal ball” to determine that burning fossil fuels to power electric cars is ultimately a good thing for those worried about man-made global warming, because electric vehicles will eventually, it is hoped, “cut Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to most of Oslo’s total greenhouse gas emissions.”

The uptick in demand will result in annual carbon emissions of 1.5 million tonnes in the rest of Europe. An increase of that size means someone will need to take a carbon-emissions haircut. According to Wolfgang and his assistants, this scenario means electric vehicles will encourage Europeans to depend more on coal, rather than weaning them off the dirty fuel.

Basically, more electric vehicles, mean more coal power plants, which, of course, mean a higher rate of carbon emissions. Give with one hand, take with the other.

But Wolfgang and his acolytes hold out hope that wind mills and solar panels will eventually replace coal power as the main engines fueling Norway’s growing electric car market.

“Our calculations show a much greener impact if our electric cars get their … electricity from wind power. This would be the equivalent of what the Norwegian energy company Statkraft envisaged in its original wind power plans for central Norway,” Wolfgang said, adding the “combination of more electric cars and more wind power would mean that we would benefit from all of the CO2 cuts.”

The verdict is not quite in regarding the supposed benefits of electric vehicle.

In a 2014 study, researchers at the International Energy Agency found that electric vehicles are dirtier and contribute to global warming.

“It’s kind of hard to beat gasoline” said the study’s co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota

She added: “A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean … are not better than gasoline.”

The IEA study found that electric vehicles powered by coal produce 3.6 more smog-related deaths than electric cars energized by gasoline.

Still, Wolfgang and his assistants think wind power is the answer to coal. Let wind turbines power electric vehicles, they say.

“That would also make it easier to cut Europe’s CO2 emission allowances, making it possible to increase ambitions for Europe’s climate policy,” Wolfgang said.

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