If all cars were electric, UK carbon emissions would drop by 12%

29th May 2020 | Commercial Energy

The Covid-19 lockdown has led to reduced pollution and emissions in the UK and around the world, providing a clear indication of how cars affect air quality and carbon emissions. But such a change is only temporary – millions of petrol cars are waiting for restrictions to ease. Then, higher levels of emissions will resume.

But what if they didn’t? What if all cars switched to electric overnight? We recently published a peer-reviewed conference paper looking at the emissions impact for such a switch in Scotland alone, and have now extended our analysis to the whole of the UK for a forthcoming publication. We found that if the UK’s cars went entirely electric its total carbon emissions would be cut by almost 12%.

Carbon emissions

It’s a hypothetical scenario, but not total fantasy. The UK government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 and aims to bring all greenhouse gases to net-zero by 2050. We are still some way off: though there were 39 million vehicles on UK roads last year, just 27,000 new electric vehicles were registered. But the switch will happen, eventually.

Electric cars are not even a particularly new technology – at the end of the 19th century, 90% of the taxis in New York were electric. But Henry Ford and others soon figures out how to mass produce internal combustion engine cars at affordable costs, and changed our sense of “normal” car technology.

This is a shame for many reasons, not least because electric cars are much simpler in design: they simply consist of electric motors, a battery and a controller. This removes the complexity of moving mechanical parts in the internal combustion engine and associated technology, and the manufacturing energy needed to produce each part. Hence the carbon footprint of manufacturing both cars are not significantly different, although electric cars require slightly more carbon to produce due to the battery.

More information available on the website below