CESifo: EVs not the best option for reduction in on-road CO2 in Germany given power mix
20 April 2019
According to a new study published by the ifo Institue Center for Economic Studies (CESifo) in Germany, EVs will barely help cut CO2 emissions in the country over the coming years, as the introduction of electric vehicles does not necessarily lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions from road traffic given the current power generation mix. The researchers carried out their calculations based on a Mercedes-Benz C 220 d diesel and the new Tesla Model 3.
Electricity production in Germany, 2018.
It follows from our comparative calculations for the new Tesla Model 3 and the Mercedes C 220 d that even modern electric cars will hardly be able to contribute to the reduction of German CO2 emissions in the coming years. Unfortunately, due to our grid situation, electric cars are still too early for this strategic goal in the sense of German climate protection efforts.—Buchal et al.
According to the study, natural gas combustion engines are an ideal technology for transitioning to vehicles powered by hydrogen or “green” methane in the long term.
Considering Germany’s current energy mix and the amount of energy used in battery production, the CO2 emissions of battery-electric vehicles are, in the best case, slightly higher than those of a diesel engine, and are otherwise much higher, according to the study by Christoph Buchal, professor of physics at the University of Cologne; Hans-Dieter Karl, long-standing ifo energy expert; and Hans-Werner Sinn, former ifo president and professor emeritus at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.
In addition to CO2 emissions from battery production, the team looked at alternative energy sources for electricity in order to calculate the impact electric vehicles have on CO2 emissions.
They report that even with today’s technology, total emissions from a combustion engine powered by natural gas are already almost one-third lower than those of a diesel engine.
Over the long term, hydrogen-methane technology offers a further advantage: it allows surplus wind and solar power generated during peaks to be stored, and these surpluses will see a sharp increase as the share of this renewable energy grows.—Professor Buchal
In their study, the authors criticize the fact that EU legislation allows electric vehicles to be included in calculations for fleet emissions with a value of “zero” CO2 emissions, as this suggests that electric vehicles do not generate any such emissions. The reality is that, in addition to the CO2 emissions generated in the production of electric vehicles, almost all EU countries generate significant CO2 emissions from charging the vehicles’ batteries using their national energy production mixes.
The authors also take a critical view of the discussion about electric cars in Germany, which centers around battery-operated vehicles when other technologies also offer great potential: hydrogen-powered electric vehicles or vehicles with combustion engines powered by green methane, for instance.
… hydrogen- or methane-powered electric cars still lead to slightly higher CO2 emissions in today’s energy mix than battery-powered cars, but this disadvantage will turn into an advantage if the German electricity mix clearly moves in the direction of green energy, because then the lower energy efficiency is less and less important. Combustion engines powered by fossil methane already have very low CO2 emissions today. They are an ideal bridge technology for cars that can later use “green” methane.
The major advantage of hydrogen and methane derived from it is the ability to keep the excess current peaks for months, which will become increasingly important as the market share of wind and solar power exceeds 30%, and in the possibility of rapid refueling of the vehicles. The idea of providing the necessary storage of wind and solar energy with batteries is utopian, as the Leopoldina, Acatech and the Union of Academies of Sciences have emphasized. We have pointed that out. In this respect, the Federal Government can only be advised to promote hydrogen and methane technology in the sense of a technology opportunity.—Buchal et al.
Methane technology is ideal for the transition from natural gas vehicles with conventional engines to engines that will one day run on methane from CO2-free energy sources. This being the case, the German federal government should treat all technologies equally and promote hydrogen and methane solutions as well.—Prof. Sinn
Buchal, Christoph, Hans-Dieter Karl and Hans-Werner Sinn (2019) “Kohlemotoren, Windmotoren und Dieselmotoren: Was zeigt die CO2-Bilanz?”, ifo Schnelldienst 72 (08) (in German)
From a climate/technology POV, this piece is utterly bizarre.
The high per-kWh emissions of the German grid are due to bad policy, specifically the anti-nuclear plank of the Energiewende. EVs charged from the grid in France, Sweden or Norway would have vastly lower equivalent emissions. So would EVs charged from plants which capture and sequester carbon, like Allam-cycle plants.
Carbon capture is only really practical in stationary systems. Using an open-cycle system like "renewable" methane in ICEVs adds the problem of capturing carbon to replace what's vented to the atmosphere. The only way to truly make such a scheme work is to use methane in a carbon-capturing power plant and use it to charge EVs; the energy storage system becomes part of the electric grid.
Why not do this? Because actually closing the cycle using wind and solar is obscenely expensive, and talking about electricity means talking about what it will cost. Daring to mention a figure that will put 95% of the population in energy poverty will be the straw that breaks the camel's back and brings down the whole house of cards. So we get ridiculous evasions like this: can't go EV because grid emissions are too high, use "renewable" CNG that just so happens to be indistinguishable from fossil.
It's one huge greenwashing conspiracy by the coal and gas lobbies to stay in business, and that's all it is.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 20 April 2019 at 03:17 AM
If we were building nuclear, great.
We are not, and emissions need to be calculated based on reality.
It is quite plain that the zero rating of electric cars for emissions is false, and that both in build and use their emissions are substantial.
It was not even a hybrid used for the comparison.
Posted by: Davemart | 20 April 2019 at 04:19 AM
Interesting that they use figures of Co2 that are so easily checked. A lot of max Co2 with coal-fired plants and maximised Model 3. It results of course in high numbers for the ev.
After calculating with coal-based and a lot of yada yada of the marginal aspect they find the figure of 680 g / kWh beeing appropriate to use. Last check I did is that the German mix is around 450 g / kWh and sinking.
Posted by: Mikael Alatalo | 20 April 2019 at 05:19 AM
The Germans made a huge mistake by turning off their nuclear and replacing it with brown coal. Nonetheless, they have loads of wind and solar so the CO2 / kwH shouldn't be too bad as Mikael has said,
Also, if you could get them to charge when there is a lot of renewables on the grid, you could make use of it even more.
I am sure that the Germans could (and would) do this. My view is that they really want to be green, and if they could increase this by charging at night (or midday) they would.
I can see two problems with CNG - the amount of space the tanks take up in a car and availability of fuelling stations. Beyond that, it is OK - not (by any means) zero co2, but better than diesel (and better again if hybridised).
The Germans will have to give up their long range, high speed driving if they go electric - power is the cube of the speed, so you better not go much above 120 kph.
Does anyone know if they could turn their reactors back on, or have to they gone too far with decommissioning ?
Posted by: mahonj | 20 April 2019 at 06:19 AM
Germany is using/has installed the wrong e-power generation mix. Replacing NPPs with brown coal NPPs was a huge environmental mistake.
Of course, using costly NG (1) to make electricity (2) to charge batteries (3) to activate drive trains (4) to move vehicles at 150 to 200 kph is not very clean and rather costly.
Using recent very low cost (under 3 cents/kWh) intermittent clean electricity from large wind/solar farms, to charge extended range BEVs or make H2 for FCEVs and reducing driving speed to 120 kph would give very different results.
Posted by: HarveyD | 20 April 2019 at 07:07 AM
Last figure I recall for Germany was 560 g/kWh.
It was contrasted with 58 g for France.
Sweden was doing about 22 grams last I looked. In the previous hour, Ontario's grid was emitting 3.12 gCO2/kWh.
You'd need to turn the coal and gas interests off, meaning the company suits, their paid-for pols and all of their captive Green activists. Jailed for criminal conspiracy would do.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 20 April 2019 at 03:39 PM
Europe depends on Russia via pipeline from the Ukraine for 30% of its nature gas and much of the rest is LNG from the Middle East. Seems to me you would keep the nuclear plants until you could replace them with RE and not energy from unstable countries...politically, this smells.
Posted by: Lad | 20 April 2019 at 04:59 PM
You mean, Gerhard Schröder going to work for Gazprom wasn't enough of a wake-up call for you?
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 20 April 2019 at 05:59 PM
In Sweden we are producing our own renewable gas (biogas) from food and agricultural waste. We are at about 1 or 2 percent of the transport sector with production capacity rising yearly. I can fill my tank and drive about 450km and that is at a cost 40% less than petrol.
Posted by: Jim | 21 April 2019 at 04:28 AM
Great use of a waste stream, Jim, but how much of the stream are you using to get that 1-2%? If you use 100% of it, how much demand is left over?
I suspect the answer comes down to "a lot", so full decarbonization will require something else to do the heavy lifting.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 21 April 2019 at 06:34 AM
Extendable range BEVs with up to 6 LEASED plug in battery packs could give the flexibility required to cover most/all users needs.
The average user could operate on 2 or 3 batteries most of the time and LEASE more batteries (up to 6) for longer trips only.
Of course, owners could upgrade the LEASED battery packs for lighter, higher performance, lower cost units as they become available, for more range at lower cost.
Why transport/LEASE 800 Kg of batteries when 200 Kg units would do for daily use?
Posted by: HarveyD | 21 April 2019 at 07:41 AM
When the EEG-law (renewable energie law) was introduced in Germany back in 2000, the CEOs of the four big power utilities scoffed and joked about this effort. After two years had passed their faces started to mirror slight concerns; after further three years had elapsed they all panicked and visited Mrs. Merkel and begged her to intervene on their behaviour. They were losing market shares at a discerning and ever increasing rate and their financial resources dipped accordingly. Mrs. Merkel has always been - and still is - an intimate friend of big business (power utilities, car MFRCs, big oil etc.).
Currently, renewables make up approx. 42% of the power production in Germany. Her good friends are being subsidized (directly and indirectly) with ca. €14 billion p/A. Nowhere in Europe is electricity as expensive as in Germany; this is the result of legislative activities passed by Mrs. Merkels government to protect her friends. This is also the reason why Germany is constantly failing to meet their emissions commitment as negotiated in Paris. If Mrs. Merkel would have had enough sense and had invested all those billions in a proper infrastructure in support of renewables, then Germany would have never had a problem of fulfilling their Paris-commitments.
This whole sad story is not the result of lacking technical solutions or possibilities but is a result of failing political will and foresight.
Posted by: yoatmon | 21 April 2019 at 09:48 AM
It's the same story throughout politics; the corporations finance the election campaigns and expect favors in return...it's taken to an extreme in the U.S. where the people picked the fossil fuels candidate, Trump, over the stock market's candidate, Hillery.
Posted by: Lad | 21 April 2019 at 04:00 PM
It’s only logical electricity should be very expensive in German when they do stupid virtue signaling with their system.
Shutting down nuclear was very dumb. But they still felt the guilt of first world status or whatever so they doubled down on stupid with unreliables (wind and solar). Rational Reliable, Economic Renewables (mainly hydro & occasionally geo-thermal, maybe someday wave) can be trusted to be cheap and smart. The rest just green wash.
The political class, their media stooges & the academic, economic elites that jump in bed with them, are all corrupt, everywhere. You Certainly can’t be surprised about Angela Merkel & German elites? The folks that won’t acknowledge this are retarded or part of the incestuous problem. That’s why the US elected Trump, who is as far from that crowd as we could find.
Posted by: Tim Duncan | 21 April 2019 at 04:48 PM
Whether biofuels, EVs or other remedies, we will have to be content with
5-10%, to say it can not do it all so forget it is insanity.
Posted by: SJC | 21 April 2019 at 07:21 PM
Well, of course they did. They were given an impossible task:
They either had to get subsidies too (to compensate them for the services they'd once provided along with energy, but now had to provide without energy sales) or go out of business... and take the German grid down with them.
- Forced into the role of "balancing" the unreliable "renewables", but
- not only NOT compensated for the work but actively discriminated against in the marketplace.
Merkel, 1d1öt that she is, didn't see that this was the inevitable result of Greenism but did cave to the necessity of keeping the German grid going even if it took lignite-burners to do it. And that is where Germany is today: burning lignite as far into the future as anyone can project, because there are no engineering projects to actually replace it.
And Germany's neighbors have talked about using phase-shifting transformers to prevent Germany from dumping its "renewable" surpluses on them, effectively using THEIR balancing capacity for free.
It is to protect Mama Merkel herself; if there were blackouts, she'd not merely be out of office but probably wind up like Ceaucescu. And she deserves to, for both that and the flood of räpefügees she insisted be let in.
There is exactly one type of infrastructure which can "support" unreliable wind and solar, and that is huge hydropower reservoirs. Germany has no such; in 2016 Germany's 11.258 GW of hydropower operated at 21.7% capacity factor, presumably using all available river flow. The resulting 21.5 TWh of generation came to about 3% of German consumption.
You cannot build or mine topography or rainfall. "Proper infrastructure in support of renewables" is impossible for most countries.
Yes. The failure of political will to tell the Greens that they are 1d1öts, and build more nukes. France had already shown how to do it, by doing it totally by accident. However, 1d1öts gonna 1d1öt, and letting 1d1öts vote is a guarantee of massive social dysfunction and failure.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 21 April 2019 at 09:28 PM
Also, for expensive electricity, don't forget Denmark as well as Germany.
Does Anyone know of a list of gms CO2 / KwH by country?
We have some individual figures here, but no list.
IMO, the Germans would do better to use gas rather than Lignite.
Also, if they had a large fleet of EVs in germany, they could charge them when there was a load of renewables on the grid.
You won;t be able to drive from Frankfurt to Munich at high speed with most EVs, but you could do most of your normal driving.
Question: should people be allowed to keep their ICE cars (and pay low tax and insurance on them) if they also have an EV?
The idea is that people will be more likely to buy an EV if they have occasional access to an ICE car for the odd long trip.
Posted by: mahonj | 22 April 2019 at 02:06 AM
Surprisingly there appears to be consensus that Germany shut down NPP too soon.
Returning to the standard NPP approach would not not reduce German electric costs. Now would be a good time to explore other NPP options that are safer and have lower initial investment costs, such as modular reactors.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 22 April 2019 at 07:52 AM
Leaving them useless when conditions happen to be calm and dark (and even worse, cold too)? Bound to be popular. I'm sure you'd have massive rallies over it... oh, wait, that would be "riots".
It would be practically mandatory to have 2 cars if the EV was only usable when the weather allowed you to charge it. I could see the dictatorial socialist elite mandating that, though. Restricting car ownership to people who can afford two of them would eliminate most traffic problems for their limousines.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 22 April 2019 at 11:07 AM
Sure it could, just restart every NPP that is capable of restarting. You just eliminate the "environmental fee", stop buying the "renewable" electricity and let the rent-seekers who built it go bankrupt. I'd impose a surcharge on Green party members to help compensate any ordinary citizens who were hurt by it, though.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 22 April 2019 at 11:08 AM
I was not suggesting that they do not use EVs when there is no renewable electricity, they will have to charge them from Lignite electricity, which is not so good.
The point is that if you have flexibility about when you charge, you can charge at the most suitable time. This would mean having a "two day" battery which can be charged once every two days in normal use. A 40KwH leaf or Tesla model 3 would be an example. A 24KwH Leaf, less to. In summer, you could charge at midday, in winter, you would charge when there is least demand or lots of wind.
Similarly, with the long range 2nd car idea, you could keep your old ICE and use it a couple of times a year for the odd long run. You would use the EV most of the time, even if you had to charge it from Lignite electricity. My view is that you may as well keep the old cars for occasional long runs, rather than sell them off (and probably receive very little for them).
Perhaps I was not clear enough in my proposals.
Ideally, you could charge your EVs with low CO2 power any time (France, Sweden, Switzerland), but this is not the case an many countries, and you have to do the best you can in those cases.
Posted by: mahonj | 22 April 2019 at 11:28 AM
A few countries/places have reach 50+% with lower cost REs and will soon reach 70+%. Electrified vehicles (BEVs/FCEVs) are part of the solution in four (4) different ways.
(1) automatically delay EVs charging when much lower cost excess REs is available.
(2) automatically return energy to the grid from parked charged BEVs/FCEVs.
(3) reduce pollution and GHGs by progressively phasing out polluting power plants.
(4) further reduce pollution and GHGs by phasing out ICEVs in favor of BEVs/FCEVs.
Many more improved REs and more EVs (BEVs and FCEVs) together with many more improved electrolysers and H2 storage is part of the solution.
By the way, there is a strong possibility that New York (City) will buy clean (5,000 to 6,000 megawatts) Hydro/Wind electricity form H-Q. New DC high voltage under ground/water cables would be installed in the Champlain Lake and Hudson River.
Posted by: HarveyD | 24 April 2019 at 08:46 AM
What are they? NAME THEM, you lying SOB. And they MUST be autonomous, not relying on the backup generation of other entities NOT credited in the effort.
Prove that they are lower cost. Prove that their consumers pay less, you lying SOB.
Just as you are lying about the former, you are lying about this. STOP LYING, ALZHARVEY!
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 25 April 2019 at 07:24 AM
Yep.... a C-class Mercedes 220d rated ad 4.5l/100km.. while in reality (according to spritmonitor) in real life a 220d is rated at 6.9l/100km... Ouuupsss...
Posted by: Alberto De Boni | 28 April 2019 at 11:28 PM