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Do electric vehicles emit more GHG than Bio-CNG vehicles?


Now, the title might appear to some as a devious attempt to trick you to read the blog post.

While I’m perfectly capable of being devious enough to utterly waste your time, this time I’m serious.

I was reading a report from IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) on biogas when I came across this interesting graph:

biogas-ghg-graph-2

Image Source: German Energy Agency (DENA); Hoornweg (2012); FNR (2016); Official Journal of the European Union (2009)

A careful observation of the above chart will show that while electric mobility results in close to zero GHG emissions if the source of electricity is 100% wind (and I presume it will work for solar power too), GHG emissions from e-mobility is about 75 g CO2e/Km of travel if the source of electricity for the vehicle is from the current mix of power generation plants, a dominant part of which are fossil fuel fired (the chart is for EU, but I presume the inferences hold good for most parts of the world).

Now, zoom to cars operated on compressed natural gas (CNG) from natural biomass sources (it’s termed biomethane in the chart). They can have a GHG emission as low as 33 h CO2e/Km when the source for the methane is liquid manure.

Let’s now juxtapose data for GHG emissions: (in g CO2e per Km)

  • EVs powered by current conventional grid power = 75
  • EVs powered by wind power = 5
  • (Interpolating) EVs powered by about 50% renewable power = 40
  • Cars powered by bio-CNG/biomethane = 33-66, say about 50 on average.

That is, as things stand, cars running on bio-CNG emit much less GHG than electric vehicles (33% less – 50 vs 75).

Even when the EVs are powered by 50% renewable power (which could take until about 2040 or even longer if they solely rely on grid power), their GHG emissions are only marginally lower than emissions from bioCNG cars (and marginally higher if the bioCNG comes from liquid manure and organic waste).

Assuming that the assumptions used and the data points and calculations stand scrutiny, this is an important fact that many policy makers worldwide should be aware of. It could mean drafting policies that provide a much higher emphasis on bioCNG for the next 2 or 3 decades.

 

 

 



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Narasimhan Santhanam

Thank you for reading this post – hope it was helpful. You can connect with me at narsi@solarmango.com . My detailed profile here and my LinkedIn profile here

Posted in: Bio Energy, Biogas, Climate Change

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