June 24th, 2020 | 06:57 CEST
NEL, Nikola, Tesla - is Germany facing a new billion euro scandal?
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"[...] Nickel, therefore, benefits twice: firstly from its growing importance within batteries and secondly from the generally growing demand for such storage. [...]" Terry Lynch, CEO, Power Nickel
Born and raised in Hannover, Lower Saxony follows social and economic developments around the globe. As a passionate entrepreneur and columnist he explains and compares the most diverse business models as well as markets for interested stock traders.
Green power is on the rise
In 2019, 54% of the electricity mix in Germany consisted of conventional energy sources such as lignite (19.8%), nuclear energy (13.8%), natural gas (10.5%) and hard coal (9.5%). The so-called renewable energies accounted for 46%. A large part came from wind energy (24.5%), photovoltaics (9.1%), biomass (8.6%) and hydropower (3.8%). In total, net electricity of 513 TWh (= billion kWh) was generated. The share of green electricity increased by 13.3% compared to 2018. But who will compensate for the loss of nuclear power? Hopefully we will see.
Where will the extra electricity come from?
Given that e-cars generate additional demand for electricity, it must be generated from scalable coal-fired power generation, which increases CO2 emissions. "Electric cars today drive de facto with 100% coal-based electricity," says IfW researcher Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrich Schmidt. "This is because the share of renewable energy in their electricity consumption is not available to displace fossil fuels elsewhere, and the increased electricity demand requires the additional use of fossil fuels." Plainly and conclusively to the point.
The big miscalculation
In the current Kiel Policy Brief "Elektromobilität und Klimaschutz: Die große Fehlkalkulation", researcher Schmidt has reviewed and published the climate balance of electromobility, taking into account the rising demand for electricity and the electricity mix, which now disenchants the political ideology that e-cars are automatically green with hard facts. "First when the energy transition is well advanced and the electricity is almost exclusively generated from renewable energies, the electric car will be more climate-friendly than modern diesel vehicles."
What does using an e-car mean today?
An e-car increases the emission of greenhouse gases by 73% compared to a modern diesel car. The EU Commission estimates that even in 2050 the share of fossil fuels will still be around 40%, so an end is not even in sight. This means that even then, electric cars would still be running de facto on 100% carbon electricity and cause emissions of around 300 grams of CO2 per kilometer, whereas modern diesel vehicles only emit around 173 grams of CO2 according to an ADAC study, the IfW study states.
Have studies been embellished for the Corona stimulus package?
The researcher's reference to two more recent studies is particularly controversial. These studies did not take into account the significant increase in electricity consumption and thus led to an embellished picture of electromobility, which was given special consideration in the Corona economic stimulus package by means of an additional purchase premium. An erroneous presentation with serious consequences for citizens due to additional environmental and tax burdens. "Even if the car is refuelled with 'its own' solar power, as one of the studies recommends, it would be more climate-friendly to feed this into the power grid and thus reduce the proportion of coal-based electricity," explains Schmidt.
In addition to the IfW, there are also other sources of information that question the environmental protection of electric mobility. The white paper "The road to low CO2 mobility" from Stahl Automotive Consulting GmbH & Co. KG offers further insights into details.
Does diesel have no alternative?
According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, a total of 630.84 billion kilometres were covered by passenger cars alone in 2018. Assuming an average consumption of an electric car of 15 kWh per 100 kilometres, this would result in an electricity consumption of 18.4% of the net electricity generation in Germany if the switch to electric mobility were complete, according to Schmidt's analysis. Where additional and environmentally friendly electricity can come from remains unclear.
What consequences the results of this study will have for NEL ASA, Nikola and Tesla worldwide is still open. The critical point is the additional use of coal for the production of hydrogen and charging of batteries. In 2019, there were around 2,425 coal-fired power plants on the grid worldwide (source: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/every-coal-power-plant-1927-2019/). Anyone who wants to be mobile in Germany will have to drive modern diesel cars for the time being in the interests of environmental protection. Politicians, meanwhile, have to put up with the accusation that they are misleading. People who have bought an e-car to protect the environment are thus doing themselves a disservice.
Solution for greener diesel with hydrogen
Innovative solutions can nevertheless contribute to environmental protection now and today. The Canadian company dynaCERT has developed a hydrogen technology that generates the energy carrier itself on board and feeds it into the engine via the air supply as a catalyst during the combustion of diesel. Increasing efficiency reduces fuel consumption and emissions of pollutants. The gap in CO2 emissions between diesel passenger cars and electric cars can therefore be even wider. It remains exciting.
Nothing is as it seems
In conclusion, the topic of electromobility is extremely complex and there are different interests, opinions and interpretations of data. The ostracism of the diesel engine is just as wrong as the glorification of the electric car. If the consumer groups are now insecure, then no one should be surprised. At the moment it seems that electric mobility is part of a political ideology and only works with taxpayers' money at the expense of the solidarity community, without fulfilling the actual promise to protect the environment.
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