A salutary reminder

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Opinion

Electric vehicles may have a very green reputation. But an important reminder: they can only be as green as the electricity they are using.

The International Energy Agency has found wide ranges in electric cars’ net climate benefits over internal combustion engines, according to its’ new survey. That has factored in two key variables: how carbon-intensive a country’s electricity is, as well as the emissions associated with batteries and other manufacturing inputs of electric cars.

Looked at like this, the carbon benefits of electric cars over petro-fuelled ones drop from 50% to 30% in Europe when adding manufacturing emissions, and are even lower in countries that get more electricity from fossil fuels, like the U.S.

When considering manufacturing emissions, electric cars can even result in a net increase in CO2 emissions in countries like India and China with heavy fossil-fuel power mixes, the IEA says. Caveats definitely worth remembering.