Viral study slammed: Electric cars are not dirtier than diesel

US automaker Tesla is a key reason why the US has overtaken Europe as the world's second largest market for electric cars. POOL/AFP/Robyn Beck

US automaker Tesla is a key reason why the US has overtaken Europe as the world's second largest market for electric cars. POOL/AFP/Robyn Beck

The much-shared study by the IFO had claimed electric cars are 11% to 28% dirtier than their diesel counterparts.

A recent study by the Munich-based IFO Institute for Economic Research went viral this weekend for claiming electric cars were dirtier than diesel, but now it has emerged that the study itself is “extremely flawed”.

“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,” the IFO study claimed.

Journalists and researchers have, however, picked apart the study, claiming it “makes many of the same mistakes similar studies have made”.

“For example, they assume that electric car batteries become “hazardous waste” after 150,000km or 10 years, which simply isn’t the case. 150,000km is shorter than the warranty period for an EV battery (generally 100,000 miles or more in the US, which is 160,000km),” claims editor-in-chief of Electrek Fred Lambert.

“Virtually all automakers working on electric vehicles are also working on recycling the batteries since they are going to still be extremely valuable after being depleted. And lithium-ion batteries do not have a hazardous waste designation in the US – however, the lead-acid batteries in every diesel vehicle do,” he added.

The study was also slammed for using statistics from Germany, which as a major coal user in Europe is currently one of the “dirtier economies”, but is becoming cleaner.

“Renewable energy is becoming a more important part of the energy sector, which is making electric vehicles cleaner over time,” says Lambert.

Additionally, the recent revelation that the auto industry has been dramatically underreporting diesel emissions will have impacted the study’s numbers.

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