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Volkswagen LCA highlights carbon benefits of EV vs diesel on Golf: 119 vs 140 g CO2/km; ID. family to reduce footprint

For the same vehicle models with different powertrains, the carbon footprint of the battery-powered E variants is already better than those of the corresponding vehicles with internal combustion engines, according to a certified life cycle assessment (LCA) of the Volkswagen Golf, which compares the CO2 emissions of the different vehicle versions with either an electric or an internal combustion engine.

In addition, the electric vehicles offer a higher CO2-saving potential in all phases of the product cycle. Furthermore, the company said, it is of crucial importance for CO2 emissions whether the propulsion energy is generated from fossil or regenerative sources.


In summary, the current Golf TDI (Diesel) emits 140g CO2/km on average over its entire life cycle, while the e-Golf reaches 119g CO2/km.

In the vehicle with an internal combustion engine, most of the emissions occur during the use phase—i.e., in the supply chain of the fossil fuel and the combustion. Here the Diesel reaches 111 g CO2/km.

A corresponding vehicle with electric drive emits only 62 g CO2/km during this phase, which results from energy generation and supply.

In contrast, most emissions from the battery-powered electric vehicle are generated in the productions phase. According to LCA, a diesel here generates 29 g CO2/km, while 57 g CO2/km were determined for a comparable e-vehicle.

The battery production and the complex extraction of raw materials are responsible for this. These emissions account for almost half of the CO2 emissions of the entire life cycle.

During the use phase, CO2 emissions depend on the sources of energy production. They decrease all the more, the more regenerative energies are available.

Life cycle assessment as a tool for holistic analysis. Life cycle assessment is an intricate, complex, and internationally standardized procedure to research the ecological balance sheet of vehicles. Among other things, the carbon dioxide emissions are investigated during all product stages of the automobile:

  • The emissions generated by the extraction of raw materials, the production of components, and the assembly are included in the production.

  • The use phase includes both the emissions of the fuel and electricity supply, and especially those of vehicle operation over 200,000 km.

  • Recycling evaluates dismantling and potential savings through recycling.

With the findings from the life cycle assessment, Volkswagen can derive additional emission-reducing measures for life cycle engineering and specifically optimize the CO2 balance.

Improvements in lithium-ion battery technology and supply chain optimizations will lower the carbon footprint during battery manufacturing for the first ID. model planned for 2020 by more than 25% per kilowatt hour (kWh) of battery capacity compared with the e-Golf. When using regenerative energy, the reduction potential is almost 50%.

By far the greatest potential for reducing CO2 emissions arises from the source of energy applied during the use phase. If electricity for driving during the use phase is obtained exclusively from renewable sources, CO2 emissions of 62 g CO2/km in today’s EU electricity mix will drop to just 2 g CO2/km.

With this as context, since the beginning of the year, in Germany the subsidiary Group Elli (Electric Life) has been offering customers and third parties “Volkswagen Naturstrom”, which exclusively comes from renewable energy sources.

Recycling the vehicle offers further opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions through the circular economy. Thus, a pilot plant for recycling is currently being built at the Volkswagen location Salzgitter. There, from end-of-life batteries—that is, batteries that no longer store enough energy due to aging—a new raw material (black powder) for the cathodes of new batteries is to be obtained. This results in a potential CO2 reduction of up to 255. However, the group does not expect significant amounts of batteries for industrial-scale recycling until the end of the 2020s.

The decarbonization index (DKI) measures the CO2 emissions of an average vehicle of the Volkswagen Group over its life cycle. The DKI is measured in tons of CO2 equivalent per vehicle. In 2015, the figure was 43.6 and, according to the Volkswagen Group’s target, it should decrease by 30% by 2025.



I can't get through to the figures in detail to find the assumptions behind them, the grid mix assumed and so on.


'The battery of the Volkswagen e-Golf has a total capacity of 35.8 kWh. The usable capacity is 32 kWh (estimate). A range of about 120 miles is achievable on a fully charged battery.'

So even using their 25% reduction in emissions for the ID production and using their middle sized 55KWH battery reducing emissions much seems tough.


Let´s look at another hypothetical option. We put the TDI engine in a full hybrid drivetrain (e.g. similar to Toyota). No plug-in; just full hybrid. Let´s also assume only moderate improvement by hybridization, i.e. 20% (less than Toyota claims). Simple mathematics then gives us: 140*0.8=112 g/km. Thus, the diesel hybrid would be at least as good as the EV Golf (or better!). This, at a fraction of the incremental cost, compared to a conventional car. What about that?

You could, of course, refine the conditions for comparison and calculations but I think this is sufficient to prove some points. Whether you like it or not.


Peter_XX, the figures of "in use CO2" are too low, probably the NEDC numbers. 111 g CO2 from TDI means 4.2 l/100 km, this too low for Golf TDI, real world data from 400 sample size shows a consumption of 5.5 l/100 km, that is 145 g CO2. For the EV they are probably also to low, but then again there are countries that don't burn so much coal for electricity than Germany.

On the other hand CO2 of diesel or petrol both with 40% thermal efficiency engines will be around the same in hybrid application, so why not just take the Prius 4.5 l/100 km (real world 240 sample size), that gives you 105 g CO2 tailpipe emissions.

Calculation of tailpipe CO2 are really easy, just take the consumption:
1 Liter Petrol burns to 2,33 Kilogramm CO2
1 Liter Diesel burns to 2,64 Kilogramm CO2


Anyone know what gmsCO2/KwH figure they are using ?
There is a big difference between Germany and France or Sweden.

There is also a huge difference in Germany by time of day / time of year with all their solar and wind renewables. If you could get people to charge when the grid was low CO2, it would make a huge difference.
Obviously, this won't be possible all the time - sometimes you will have to charge from a lignite grid, but if people delayed charging till after 12pm, or near noon, you could get lower co2 some of the time.
If you had "smart chargers" which can see electricity prices for the next 24-48 hours, and a billing system which runs off real time power prices, then this could work.
If you need to charge now, you have to do it and you must take the current price; but if you have flexibility as to when you can charge, you should be able to get lower prices, especially if you have a large enough battery to allow you to charge today or tomorrow.


It does not matter very much if you compare according to WLPT or NEDC, as long as all vehicles are compared in the same driving cycle. My Ford Focus diesel car usually consume less than 4 l/100 km, except maybe a period in the winter time with short distance travel where the consumption increases somewhat, so obviously you can get real-life fuel consumption below 4.2 with a diesel car. I acknowledge that Prius has very low fuel consumption, which would also be on par with an EV. Nevertheless, a diesel engine is even more efficient (at most loads and speeds) and it is appropriate to comment on the same engine as VW cited. Of course, there is more to it. You would not just substitute a DCT gearbox with a hybrid drive but you would also downsize the engine to get the full FC benefit while keeping the performance on at least the same level. Or, even better, reduce the number of cylinders from 4 to 3, with a corresponding gain in cost. I also consider the mild hybrid to give more bang for the buck than the full hybrid. The gain in efficiency would be almost the same as for the full hybrid but the incremental cost would be far lower. Moreover, it would use less rare elements than the full hybrid and in comparison to the EV, the difference would be monumental.


It is EU electricity mix. You could do cherry-picking by choosing France or Sweden (or maybe a country with much higher CO2 per kWh than EU mix) but our electricity market is getting more and more integrated here in Europe, so their comparison is fair regarding this aspect.

The main conclusion here would be that you would have to focus on cherry-picking to find any real advantage with EVs in Europe. Yet, they are subject to significant subsidies.


Consumption is important if you are comparing a car that emits majority of CO2 in the production cycle and very little under driving (EV) and a car that is easily prudeced and then emits tons of CO2 when driving (diesel). If you take very small consumption for both, diesel will benefit, if you take higher consumption, EV will benefit.

EV has benefits beyond CO2 emissions, EVs will be getting cleaner with cleaner electricity, diesel car will get dirtier and dirtier through it's life cycle. Not to mention maintanance and regulation of thousands of small tailpipes, compared to one big chimney in power plant. After all an averege car on the road is 10 years old, ask your self how does that DPF work on car that old and what does a normal do when they face the problems with EGR, DPF... Or cars that consume more oil or have their injectors just a little outside of parameters. People don't intentionally modify their cars to be rolling coal, but when the problems arises there are many "experts" that will fix the problem for a little fee to the wallet but a big fee for enviroment.


The obvious solution is to use 100% REs for batteries/super caps and EVs + quick chargers production and 100% REs to recharge all EVs.

REs could be a mix of Hydro-Wind-Solar-Waves-Geothermal etc.

Norway and Denmark may be the first countries to do it.


"..... whether the propulsion energy is generated from fossil or regenerative sources."
They certainly meant renewables and not regenerative sources.
Also, I think it is a bit illusionary to make such overall comparisons as previous commentators have done. In the big cities (locally) you have a concentration of emissions from ICEs that everyone suffers from regardless how high or how low they are; this certainly is not the case of EVs. In a global sense, this doesn't matter because they sum up to influence climate in a negative aspect. In the future, total emissions of EVs will constantly improve due to improved manufacturing processes of cells / batteries and an ever increasing portion of renewables on the entire production of electric power.


The Euromix carbon intensity is quite low: about 295 gms / KwH (for 2015).

Can anyone find a a newer value ?
Germany is about 440, so a fair bit worse (in 2015, probably a good bit better now).
If you used the German figure, there would be little to chose between the two - unless the notional German was able to charge mostly when the grid was carbon light.

You also get considerable local air quality improvements, for sure, whatever the generation source.


The flaw in arguments along the lines of those made by Peter are not so much the question of cherry picking as that can be shown on both sides rather that it doesnt take account of likely improvements expected as grid emissions benefit from increasing renewable inputs at the same time as the e-vehicle offerings continue to better. We know that the hydrocarbon vehicles lose compliance over time as well as having the disincentive of high maintenance disincentives that are not a associated with ev's.
Also important to recognise that developing industries will benefit from expandig market share. We need to consider the additive contribution not isolated examples of bottlenecks in supply chains or work arounds and redesigns of grids and supply chain etc.


The CO2 by kWh produced varies a lot from one country to another.

Iceland is very low with 019 and Poland, South Africa, Serbia, China, India and a few others are not doing so well with 1100+

USA with 547, Germany with 672, UK with 508, Russia with 513 are middle of the road.

France with 71, Canada with 179, Sweden with 23, Norway with 2.2 are better examples.

Thomas Lankester

Where did you get those emissions intensity figures from?
They look suspect. The UK figure, for instance, is double the reality of last 12 months:

We've not had north of 500g/kWh (annualised) for 5 years.


TL: CO2 Emission per kWh produced is available on the Net, for all/most countries.

Do all countries report the proper figures? That is a good question.

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