china-coal-mix-graphicWidespread adoption of electric vehicles may not be the way to go in China if the goal is to reduce CO2 and other air pollutants, according to a study by researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and China’s Tsinghua University.

According to the researchers, the mass use of EVs involves “multiple environmental issues, because EVs use electricity that is generated primarily from coal in China.”

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Researchers examined the fuel-cycle CO2, SO2, and NOx emissions of EVs in China in both current (2008) and future (2030) periods and compared them with those of conventional gasoline vehicles and gasoline hybrids. They concluded that EVs do not promise much benefit in reducing CO2 emissions currently, but greater CO2 reduction could be expected in the future if coal combustion technologies improve and the share of non-fossil fuel-generated electricity increases significantly.

EVs could increase SO2 emissions by three to 10 times and also double NOx emissions compared to gasoline vehicles if charged using the current electricity grid in China, according to the study. In the future, EVs would be able to reach the NOx emission level of gasoline vehicles with advanced emission control devices equipped in thermal power plants, but they would still increase SO2, the researchers stated.

In the end, the researchers conclude that EVs do represent an effective solution to issues in China such as oil shortage, but they add that “critical policy support is urgently needed to address the environmental issues caused by the use of EVs to make EVs competitive with other vehicle alternatives.”

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