Research Articles

Environmental impacts of electric vehicles in South Africa

Xinying Liu, Diane Hildebrandt, David Glasser
South African Journal of Science | Vol 108, No 1/2 | a603 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajs.v108i1/2.603 | © 2012 Xinying Liu, Diane Hildebrandt, David Glasser | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 January 2011 | Published: 20 January 2012

About the author(s)

Xinying Liu, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Diane Hildebrandt, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
David Glasser, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


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Abstract

Electric vehicles have been seen by some policymakers as a tool to target reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.1,2 Some researchers have shown that the full environmental impact of electric vehicles depends very much on the cleanliness of the electricity grid.3 In countries such as the USA and China, where coal-fired power plants still play a very important role in electricity generation, the environmental impact of electric vehicles is equivalent to, or even higher than that of cars running on internal combustion engines.4,5 In this study, the environmental impacts of electric vehicles in South Africa were investigated. We found that, as the bulk of South Africa’s electricity is generated from relatively low-quality coal and the advanced exhaust clean up technologies are not implemented in the current coal-fired power plants, the use of electric vehicles in South Africa would not help to cut greenhouse gas emissions now (2010) or in the future (in 2030 using the IRP 2010 Revision 2, policy-adjusted IRP scenario), and actually would lead to higher SOx and NOx emissions.

Keywords

electric vehicles; emissions; environmental impacts; life cycle assessment; IRP 2010

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References


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