As with batteries, debates on electric vehicles are polarised. Sparks flew in Germany last week. The Institute for Economic Research claimed an electric vehicle produces more carbon emissions than a diesel car. Volkswagen claimed the opposite: its electric Golf produces less emissions than the diesel version. Both claims are true.  A relatively high weighting of coal generation in Germany’s power mix is the foundation of the institute’s claim. Add to that the energy intensity of making the batteries for Tesla’s Model 3 used in their comparison. Adjusting for that means a Mercedes diesel actually produces less carbon over its lifetime. Lex calculates based on current generation profiles that the same holds true for the US and China. Both rely on coal-powered electricity. Only in economies using more nonfossil fuels, such as the UK and France, does large-scale adoption of electric vehicles reduce carbon sufficiently. A vehicle’s battery is equally important. The institute estimates th...

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