Can EVs really be ‘greener’ when they are charged from the grid?

Are electric vehicles really greener? Let's delve into the facts.

The rise of electric vehicles (EVs) has brought about significant discussions regarding their environmental impact, despite their zero tailpipe emissions, with sceptics questioning their true environmental benefits due to the sources of the electricity used to charge them. So, are EVs really greener? Let’s delve into the facts.

Ideally, we would harness solar and wind ourselves individually to power our homes, workplaces, and vehicles alike, but this is not possible financially for the masses, so in the meantime we must rely on the grid.

When considering the source of electricity used to charge EVs, it’s true that since 1990, there has been a remarkable reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity system in the UK of over 70%*. The adoption of renewable energy sources and other low-carbon generation technologies, including nuclear power, has helped with this.

In 2019 renewables and other low-carbon sources accounted for over 50% of our electricity production. This demonstrates a significant shift toward greener energy in our power generation mix, although it’s clear that there is a way to go. 

The government is supporting deployment of low-carbon and renewable technologies to deliver a cleaner and greener system in the future. By 2030, they are projecting that 95% of our electricity will come from low-carbon sources. By 2035, the aim is to achieve 100% low-carbon electricity. This means that all of the power used to charge EVs will be generated without greenhouse gas emissions.  

These projections paint a promising picture for the future of EVs and their environmental impact. As our electricity system becomes increasingly decarbonized, and renewable energy creation technology becomes more accessible, the emissions associated with charging EVs will diminish even further.

So, whilst EVs are not a perfectly clean solution if charged using standard electricity just yet, they undoubtedly have the potential to contribute to reducing our overall carbon footprint and addressing the challenges posed by climate change.


*Greenhouse gas reduction since 1990 **Proportion of UK renewable energy use

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