Study: CO2 reduction targets require diversity in drive technology

Study: CO2 reduction targets require diversity in drive technology

Market news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

A study presented by the VDI on the life cycle assessment of cars with different drive systems shows that the current focus on a single drive technology, which is being pushed by large parts of industry and politics, is rather counterproductive for the environment. According to the engineers’ analysis, all drive technologies, including the fuel cell, still offer great potential to make a significant contribution to reducing the CO2 emissions of mobility. “A complementary cooperation of technologies is our only chance to achieve the CO2 targets for 2030”, VDI President Volker Kefer summarises the result. “We support the promotion of alternative technologies”, said Kefer. “”However, it is important for us not to rely solely on battery vehicles, but also to further strengthen the fuel cell and modern combustion engines with more environmentally friendly fuels such as gas or synthetic fuels. “Only if these energy sources are produced on a renewable basis can all technologies help to improve the environmental balance,” said energy expert Ralf Marquard, one of the co-initiators of the study.

If the entire value-added chain is taken into account, it becomes clear that modern vehicles with combustion engines today are often even less polluting than electric vehicles, according to the study. Battery electric drives suffer from the current high energy and material consumption in production. “Successful and energy-saving battery recycling is the key to success here, and it is imperative to promote this, as it is not currently practised on an industrial scale,” says Marquard. This is an essential element in significantly improving the environmental balance of the vehicles.

A further recommendation of the study is to quickly relocate battery cell production from China to Europe. This would have a clearly positive impact on CO2 emissions. The reason for this is shorter transport distances; in addition, the electricity mix used for battery production in China is still very carbon intensive and therefore environmentally harmful.

The study contains a comparative environmental balance sheet of different drive systems, but cost aspects were not taken into account – neither for the vehicles themselves nor for the necessary infrastructure. However, it does take into account the energy required for production and operation. It looks at the CO2 emissions of the various propulsion systems under consideration over the entire life cycle of the vehicle – from the production of raw materials, through production and the use phase, to recycling. It compares the situation in 2020 with projected figures in 2030, in both cases taking into account different user behaviour.

The study (in German language) can be downloaded here.

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