Lower net CO2 balance for renewable fuel cars versus battery electric cars

A renewable fuel car and a thermal car have a different CO2 impact than a battery-electric car. It is true that a petrol or diesel car emits CO2 while driving, unlike an electric car. However, this observation only applies to emissions at the tailpipe while driving. However, the story changes when we compare the overall CO2 impact, from the production phase to the end of the car’s life (the life cycle analysis, or LCA). Especially when a thermal car runs on renewable fuels.

Online tool for CO2 comparisons

A new online tool for CO2 comparisons shows that the overall LCA net CO2 balance of a thermal car using advanced biofuels such as HVO or synthetic e-fuels is lower than that of a battery-electric car. The difference can be as much as -34% for HVO and even -60% for e-fuels. Europe continues to keep the door open to thermal cars after 2035, provided they run on ‘CO2-neutral fuels’, and wants to develop a methodology for an LCA by the end of 2025.
Belgium should take this into account in its transport policy. In this way, the country’s current 6 million thermal cars could also contribute to reducing CO2 emissions in the transport sector.

Exhaust pipe versus life cycle analysis

Currently, there are European rules on CO2 emissions from vehicles. However, these rules expose that that approach is based entirely on ‘tailpipe emissions’, something that is outdated and has limitations. Indeed, all forms of energy used for transport contribute to CO2 emissions. This is whether during the production and recycling stages, during use, or both.

There is no car that runs completely emission-free. The ‘tailpipe approach’ ignores CO2 emissions during the production of electricity and awards electric cars 0 emissions. Even if it comes from non-renewable sources. On the other hand, it considers all emissions from thermal vehicles as fully fossil, even when they use renewable fuels. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop a tool for global tool for comparisons between the net CO2 balance and a more robust platform for renewable fuels, such as HVO, and e-fuels.