Combustion vs electric engines

Both voluntary and mandatory vehicle fuel efficiency standards, coupled with consumer interest in reducing refuelling costs, have led to substantial improvements in the CO2 emissions of new vehicle and commercial fleet sales in the EU. It is reasonable to expect that light commercial vehicles will benefit from the many technological advances now available in passenger cars and, as a result, the same conclusions will apply.


Enlarge imageAny additional fuel efficiency standards for light duty vehicles and, later, for commercial vans, will further reduce the fuel demand and subsequent CO2 emissions of the road transportation sector.

Even in 2010, the most efficient ICE/hybrid cars powered by a 30% blend low carbon fuel may have a similar WTW CO2 emission rate (g/km) as a battery operated car, at comparable cost levels, depending on the primary energy used for the power production.

Here it is assumed that an average battery-powered car will use electricity generated by natural gas, this being a likely marginal source of power generation for EV requirements in the foreseeable future. This shows that the current, state-of-the-art ICE/Hybrid car (powered by a blend of fossil fuel /low carbon fuel) is also an effective solution for reaching CO2 reduction objectives in transport as compared to the fully electric car. Furthermore, it is likely to remain so for many years ahead.


Enlarge imageIn cases where the marginal power is generated from coal, relative to a conventional combustion engine vehicle, a battery run electric vehicle struggles to provide CO2 savings on a well-to-wheel basis,. An analysis by the French Environment and Energy Agency (ADEME) effectively illustrates how an assessment of the CO2 reduction potential of a battery run electric vehicle is highly dependent on the power production’s primary energy mix.

The results of a comparative cost analysis of diesel and electric vehicles using total cost of ownership (TCO) data, which includes both upfront investments and operating cost during use, show that EVs are more expensive than diesel vehicles.

On a fuels/tax parity basis, the analysis questions how much of a cost reduction is needed for a battery run electric drivetrain and what comparative crude oil price is required to align them in regards to total cost of ownership. Although the performance of the analysed vehicles varies as far as ranges are concerned, electric vehicles are more expensive than diesel vehicles until:

  • Crude prices rise beyond $260 per barrel, AND
  • Battery costs are reduced by 75%, AND
  • Consumers accept shorter driving distances.