Faster, Cleaner, Greener: The Role Of Electric Cars In Decarbonisation

The transition to a low-carbon future is already underway thanks to the role of electric cars in decarbonization, which is leading the way. Electric automobiles are essential in the fight against climate change since their emissions are reduced and they may travel without releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere. Learn more about how electric cars are helping to reduce carbon emissions!

Automobiles are responsible for 15% of man-made carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Electric vehicles have a major role to play in reducing CO2 to help mitigate the potential effects of climate change.

More drivers around the world are becoming sensitive to this. Every three minutes, someone buys another EV. We believe that the EV is the best solution to the major environmental challenges facing the auto industry today – global warming on one hand, and the issue of air quality in urban areas on the other.

Typically, drivers in Europe will reduce half their environmental footprint by driving an EV. The figure varies from country to country, but on average, this is the case. 

To measure the impact of electric vehicles let’s check out the data from Aria Technologies in Paris. Aria has carried out simulations to calculate what the effect on air pollution would be if the percentage of EVs on city roads increased by 20%.

In Rome, there are about 30% fewer particles and up to 45% less nitrogen oxide on roads where they had the highest pollution peaks. In Hongkong where the impact of carbon monoxide on a polluted day is reduced by 20%.

The widespread adoption of electric vehicles will create a significant environmental benefit for all. The EV has already found its place in Europe. Among European countries, Norway is a clear leader in promoting electric vehicles. In Norway, one in five cars sold is an EV.

Norway has put in place a model that should inspire governments around the world. There are direct subsidies that make it cheaper to buy an EV than a conventional vehicle along with other measures that make EVs more appealing. These include the use of bus lanes, free parking in Oslo and subsidies for the installation of a charging station. 

But that’s not all. The environmental benefits of EVs are being reinforced by the growing use of renewable energy in the production of electricity. 50% of new power plants being built in the world today will generate their electricity from renewable energy sources.

In Europe, that figure is 70%. So we are preparing an energy mix that will emit fewer greenhouse gases. Electrification is one way of reducing emissions.

The electric vehicle industry has a role to play here. Consumers must choose and understand that EVs are far more efficient and clean. They are also pleasant to drive. Automakers still have to work on the autonomy of the batteries, where new solutions will emerge quickly. 

Governments also have a role to play. Electric vehicles are at an early stage of development and the market is adopting this solution soon.

What Are The Benefits Of Electric Cars For The Environment?

Research reveals that electric vehicles are better vehicle options for the environment. They expel fewer air pollutants and greenhouse gases than diesel or petrol cars. And this puts into consideration their electricity and production generation to stay operational.

An electric car getting charged.
Electric car charging using solar powered EV charging points

Are Electric Vehicles Good For The Environment?

The main benefit of electric vehicles is that it contributes to improving the air quality in cities and towns. Without a tailpipe, purely electric vehicles don’t produce carbon emissions while driving, reducing air pollution immensely.

To put it simply, electric vehicles provide us with cleaner roads and make our cities and towns better places for cyclists and pedestrians. In just one year, a single electric vehicle on the road can save at least 1.5 million grams of CO2. That is equal to four return flights from London to Barcelona.

Reaching UK’s Net Zero Target With The Help Of Electric Cars

According to recent reports, road transport is responsible for at least half of London’s air pollution. Thus, the UK government and its officials aim to accelerate the presence of electric vehicles on the nation’s roads.

The government also intends to ban the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2040. With that, the UK government aims to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2050. Electric cars have a huge role to play in this.

What is more, electric vehicles can help with noise pollution, especially in cities where the speed is low. Since electric vehicles are much quieter than conventional cars, going electric promotes a quieter environment for everyone.

Reducing Fossil Fuels By Using Electric Cars

Thus, we can’t go on to power our cars by burning fossil fuels. Cars are responsible for about a tenth of energy-related CO2 emissions. One way to get them down is to reduce the need to get a car as much as possible, by, for example, giving people better public or safer bike lanes.

And then, we’ll need electric cars. Compared to combustion engine cars, electric cars emit less over their lifetime, up to 70 per cent, depending on whether produced or driven. And so the list of countries planning to ban sales of cars with a combustion engine is growing. This is the decarbonisation of engine.

And many that are not yet on it, like the USA, are making it very favourable to buy an EV. As countries around the world phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, it’s predicted that by 2030 there will be 145 million electric vehicles on the road, all of which will be emission-free at the tailpipe.

Car companies are shifting as well. Some may be faster than others, but many of the major traditional car makers have set goals for electrifying their fleets. And we are changing too. Sales for EVs are on the rise, especially in Europe and China.

More than half of car owners say their next car will be electric. But despite all this, the bit big picture still looks pretty bleak. There are around 1.3 billion passenger vehicles on the roads and only 1.5% of them are electric. Does this mean that change doesn’t happen as fast as it needs to? Well, not really. 

In 2010, way less than one per cent of all cars that were sold were electric. By 2021, this sale had grown to almost nine per cent. Electric cars are tipping out of the emergency formative phase, or the first phases into a widespread diffusion.

decarbonisation of engine
Decarbonisation of engine with the electric car

Going forward, this means that the share of electric cars will shoot up rapidly. How rapidly exactly is anyone’s guess? But to the prediction of the experts, this could go up to 50% by the year 2030. Thus, the widespread replacement of engine cars with electric vehicles is inevitable.

The electric car is finally set to go mainstream, it’s only a question of how quickly. And that depends on how quickly we solve the remaining challenges. 

How Cleaner Are Electric Cars Compared to Petrol Vehicles?

This can be determined by looking at the global warming emissions of each vehicle throughout every stage of its line – from manufacturing to driving, to disposal. And there’s a big difference. 

Both cars start on the assembly line with similar parts made from raw materials like steel and aluminium. For a petrol car, this manufacturing and assembly stage generates a tremendous amount of 7 tons of emissions. 

Battery electric cars, meanwhile, are powered by a large battery. This requires more energy and materials to produce an 84-mile-range battery electric car. Bringing its emissions tally of up to 8 tons.

But what happens when you hit the road? Petrol cars produce pollution with every gallon of petrol they burn. There are even more emissions coming from extracting, refining, and transporting the fuel to a petrol station. 

Electric cars, on the other hand, run on electricity, which can be much cleaner than petrol – depending on how the electricity is made. Two-thirds of Europeans live in areas where charging an electric car produces fewer global warming emissions than driving even a 50-mile-per-gallon petrol car.

By the end of their lives, the average petrol car will accumulate up to 57 metric tons of emissions, compared to 28 metric tons of emissions for a battery electric car. Disposing and recycling each car adds less than 1 ton of emissions. Remember that electric car battery? It can be recycled or reused. 

In the final tally, an 84-mile range battery electric car cut global warming emissions by more than 50% compared with a similar-sized petrol-powered car. Making up for the batteries’ manufacturing emissions within one year of driving. 

And as the country adds more and more renewable sources of electricity, driving electric cars will get even better.

The Need to Build More Infrastructure

Just putting electric cars on the roads is not enough. The infrastructure needs to grow alongside them. We need more charging points and also standard systems, so people can reliably charge their cars. And the electricity grid needs to be prepared to cope with increased demands.

Different places are moving at different speeds. Europe is approaching a quarter of new car sales being electric. China, the biggest EV market in absolute numbers, is putting several million electric cars on the roads every year.

In contrast, there are only 50,000 EVs on the road in India and the share in new sales is smaller than 1 per cent. To share the decarbonisation benefits of electric vehicles, like cleaner air evenly, there need to be policies that speed up deployment everywhere. 

decarbonisation benefits
Electric car on the road

EV Price

EVs are still expensive. Even a small mass-model Volkswagen ID.3 costs close to 40,000 euros. That’s mainly because it’s costly to produce batteries. But prices are falling rapidly. Battery technology has improved. Lithium-ion batteries store more energy in a small space, and they’re lighter than lead-based batteries. 

Shortly, electric cars are forecasted to cost just the same as petrol-powered ones. Governments can play a role in getting them there, by subsidizing them. Much like they did in Norway, that has become the world’s EV posterchild.

Noway has done a pretty good job of providing subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles. This is the reason why their sales are more than 70 per cent electric. 

EV Supply Chains

We also need to consider our supply of raw materials, like lithium and cobalt. How can we reduce their impact on the environment and local communities? And can we use better alternatives?

What Of the Fuel Needed To Fuel The Electric Car?

Research from the European Energy Agency reveals that with electricity, electric car carbon emissions are around 17-30% less than diesel or petrol cars. Emissions from electricity use are improved dramatically with low-carbon electricity.

Are Hybrid Cars As Environmentally Friendly?

Plug-in hybrids are a combination of traditional fuel engines and electric motors and produce some CO2 emissions.

A hybrid vehicle’s green credentials are proportionate to the journey driven in terms of electric miles and how the car is being charged. That’s why hybrid users must consider their vehicle’s electricity generation process. 

Opt for renewable energy such as the GoElectric tariff to reduce emissions. This shows how electric vehicles play a major role in reducing transport CO2 emissions.

Decarbonisation projects
Decarbonisation projects

Carbon Removal Markets

The carbon removal market is expanding fast and money is coming in to create them. Companies are removing CO2 from the atmosphere and there is a focus on where carbon dioxide can be stored.

Major technology companies like Stripe, Meta and Shopify have committed nearly a billion dollars in early-stage funding to carbon removal startups that take legacy carbon emissions out of the atmosphere and store that CO2 permanently.

That’s different from capturing emissions from a smokestack or recycling carbon to make temporary products like carbonated beverages, plastics or fuels. Experts say that we need to remove ten billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere every year by 2050.

And to get there, we’ll need to do more than plant trees. No matter how rapidly the world decarbonises, carbon removal remains a necessity. Nan Ranshohoff, head of Climate, Stripe said we have to do emissions reduction at a massive scale, at a massive pace period. Unfortunately, because we’ve done such a poor job with that to date, we are now also going to have to do carbon removal. 

There is a whole host of companies researching and implementing novel methods of permanent carbon storage, and the approaches vary widely. For example, CO2 is injected into the rocks and is then mineralized, or CO2 is injected into concrete.

Other approaches include turning CO2 into bicarbonate or baking soda which stays in seawater for 100,000 years. Waste plant residue is converted into liquid bio-oil and then injected deep underground.

We’ll likely need many of these different approaches to avert the worst effects of climate change. There is no single way of doing this and we’d require a huge portfolio of technologies to take carbon out of the air and store it permanently.

The Carbon Removal Industry

Air capture companies such as Carbon Engineering and Climeworks both founded in 2009, are among the most active pioneers in this industry. They use giant fans along with chemical processes or filters to take CO2 out of the air.

But until recently, there’s no incentive to simply bury that carbon so they’ve had to sell it into various markets. Carbon engineering, for example, has sold its captured CO2 to oil and petrol companies that use it for enhanced oil recovery, in which CO2 is injected underground to extract more oil from petroleum wells.

The carbon is sequestered, but since the process produces more oil to be buried it rarely leads to negative emissions and is therefore not carbon removal. Enhanced oil recovery is the largest market for sequestered carbon and there’s nothing else that comes close to that in terms of scale.

Climeworks declared that it won’t partner with petrol and oil companies and get inside the market by selling stored CO2 to greenhouses within Switzerland where it can be utilized to grow vegetables and make carbonated drinks within beverage companies.

But in 2017, Climeworks began working with Carbfix, an Icelandic company that sequesters CO2 permanently by burning it into stone underground. That’s one of many technical ways to store carbon. 

And after the landmark, 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report noted the necessity of carbon removal in alleviating global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, several novel methods emerged. Charm Industrial, for example, converts carbon-containing biomass like branches, leaves or cornstalks to oil which can be injected deep underground. 

As increasingly dire, IPCC reports further emphasized carbon removal startups began popping up left and right, and private funding has grown quickly. The decarbonisation ideas behind an advanced market commitment is, essentially, are send a strong demand signal to buyers, suppliers, entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers, that there is going to be a market for their technologies.

The point to remember here is that the scales these fundings are going to be built at are humongous. We’re talking about building an industry that is three times larger than the global petrol industry today. 

The easiest way of capturing and storing carbon is simply planting more trees. But because of the large-scale effects of climate change, many experts believe this is not enough. While we should plant as many trees as we can, if we want to remove 10 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, we need the area of entire Europe.

decarbonisation technologies
Decarbonisation technologies

Air Capture CO2 Storage

On the other hand, technology-based solutions, namely direct air capture, are much more scalable. Through its partnership with Carbfix, Swiss company Climeworks launched a new direct air capture and storage plain in Iceland this year and recently raised over €655 million to scale up its tech further, the biggest funding round that the carbon removal industry has ever seen.

The company’s newest plan can remove 4,000 tons of CO2 per year by dissolving captured carbon in water and injecting that into the salt rock formation. The CO2 is injected into these rocks and is then mineralized. 

That means the CO2 within two years will be turned into stone. It is solidified a kilometre underground and thereby it is permanently stored for the next hundreds of millions of years. And since CO2 injection is a simple process, the price per injection will not be too expensive.

There are tech companies who claim to store CO2 at a much cheaper price than direct capture since they rely on sourcing crop residue like stalks, stems and leaves from farms, which has already captured carbon from the atmosphere. What the companies just need to do is convert the CO2 and put it underground.

Biomass Conversion

Converting biomass to bio-oil with a pyrolyzer is the expensive part and the entire process costs about  €655 per ton. The conversion process from biomass to bio-oil is called pyrolysis or fast pyrolysis.

Pyrolysis is where biomass is ground into very tiny pieces so heat can be pushed through it very quickly, and the room is heated up to 500 degrees centigrade in less than a few seconds. That fast heating rate vaporizes the cellulose which is then condensed back to liquid.

Finally, the bio-oil is injected thousands of feet underground below all water sources, where it solidifies. Geologically speaking, bio-oil sequestration can happen in a wide variety of places than liquid CO2.

Underground Storage

While Climeworks aims to lock CO2 underground, Canadian company CarbonCure is putting that carbon to use by injecting it into a carbon mixer. This permanently stores the CO2 and has the added benefit of making the concrete stronger.

The CO2 is injected into the concrete and it reacts with the cement as it’s being batched. A chemical reaction occurs where the calcium reacts with the CO2 to form a mineral again – Calcium carbonate, also known as limestone, but very fine.

Why that reaction matter is it’s increasing the strength of the concrete. Concrete producers like Central are then able to optimize their mixes, so they need to use less cement while still maintaining high-quality concrete that can be used for any application.

The ability to use less concrete is key since cement production itself produces a lot of emissions. Less cement, along with market-based incentives for carbon reduction, also helps make CarbonCure mixes cost-competitive than traditional concrete.

Right now, CarbonCure’s producer partner sources their CO2 from large industrial facilities like ethanol plants or refineries where it’s captured from smokestacks. That means that CarbonCure isn’t involved in removing CO2 from the atmosphere, just preventing new emissions, which it’s doing successfully, in nearly 600 plants worldwide.

Currently, under construction, Amazon’s new headquarters in Arington, Virginia are using CarbonCure’s tech. The company is interested in full-scale carbon removal. Their impact to date is 166,000 metric tons of CO2, but the potential of this technology is 500 million metric tons annually and the company aims to do that by the end of the decade.

Another emerging method of permanent removal relies on ocean-based capture and storage. The oceans store about 88% of our carbon in their chemistry. Without them, climate change would be far worse than it is now.

This technology is based on the fact that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and the ocean always remains the same and thus has risen over time. Because CO2 is an acid, the ocean has become more acidic. 

But if we can decrease the acidity of the ocean by lowering CO2 content, the ocean would have more capacity to absorb additional CO2 from the air. That’s what some new companies do by adding an antacid to seawater.

decarbonisation in shipping
Decarbonisation technologies for capturing CO2

Deep-sea Storage

So an antacid or an alkaline substance is prepared, a base that’s derived from rocks, and these are purified so that it really is just a very mild base to be added into seawater or neutralizing this acidic CO2 where it is turned into bicarbonate or baking soda, and then that stays in the seawater for 100,000 years.

What that means is that because the concentration in the ocean of CO2 is lower now, more CO2 will invade the atmosphere to balance out the concentration. 

Overall, the various ways that these different companies are capturing and storing CO2 represent only a small fraction of the carbon removal tech and development. Other methods of direct all capture, as well as geologic, biologic and ocean-based carbon storage, are all under development and are also benefiting from the funding boom.

It’s an exciting time to be working in the space, but early-stage purchases by tech companies and others will only go so far. We are going to need billions to reach carbon zero by 2050 and that’s money we may not be able to gather in time.

But there is no doubt that if we’re going to do this to try and address climate change, eventually we’re going to have to just capture CO2 and pump it into the ground and store it for eternity. And to do that, we need carbon markets.

About 40 countries and 20 cities, states and provinces already do have some form of carbon pricing. Launched in 2005, Europe’s carbon market is one of the world’s oldest and most well-established, and since 2019, every jurisdiction in Canada has set a price on carbon, too.

Even China introduced a carbon pricing scheme in 2021, turning the world’s largest emitter into the world’s largest carbon market. We don’t think the other international markets are going to play a key role in how carbon removal companies perform in this market.

Many industry leaders will implement a federal carbon pricing scheme as well and increase the current tax credit for carbon storage. Currently, there are no incentives for ocean-based storage methods because verifying the amount of CO2 captured with this tech is so hard to do.

The way that you measure a ton of kelp sinking is very different from the way that you measure a ton of bio-oil injection. This is the challenge that we must solve for carbon removal, and we need to solve it in a way that doesn’t go the way that offsets went.

Failed offset efforts, such as forest conservation and other decarbonisation projects that ended up providing little real benefit, have made the carbon removal industry highly aware of the need to validate each ton of CO2 removed.

And while some of these decarbonisation technologies may seem a long way from that, the tech companies are optimistic. The market is growing and prices are diminishing. And so the question is where do those cross? It certainly happens this decade; the tech companies believe.

Government management of a market happens when people decide it’s cheaper to deal with CO2 than deal with the consequences of CO2. And there is absolutely a growing awareness of exactly what the costs of that carbon are.


It’s crazy how far electric cars have come. And by the looks of it, their journey has just begun. They play a major role in the decarbonisation services of the planet and their benefits to the environment cannot be overstated. If you are ready to help save the planet, then we suggest that you go electric as well.

How is it where you live? Do you see more electric cars and electric chargers on the streets already? Let us know in the comments.

If you’re looking to buy an electric car soon, know that you can save money by opting for a government grant. Check out the OZEV Grant.


  • Jasmine Cross

    Jasmine Cross is a passionate advocate for sustainable transportation solutions and an avid enthusiast of electric vehicles (EVs). With a background in environmental science and a keen interest in renewable energy technologies, Jasmine brings a wealth of knowledge and a fresh perspective to the world of EV charging.

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