When it comes to the environmental impact of producing electricity, Renault is probably hoping that things haven't changed too much over the past 21 months. That's because we're just now getting to see some numbers that the company was using almost two years ago.

The French automaker, which along with sister company Nissan has invested about $5 billion in electric-vehicle technology advancements, has released a previously internal report that compares the well-to-wheel environmental impact of a Renault Fluence Z.E. EV with Fluence models that run on gas or diesel. The report tracks the whole lifecycle, from vehicle production on through 10 years of driving (or, about 100,000 miles) and provides a stunning 116-pages worth of information. Granted, the report was written in October 2011, so the data isn't new, but we're glad we get a glimpse into what the company knew at the time.

The Fluence diesel's superior fuel economy, compared to the gas-powered version, was more than offset by the effects of the oil-burner's nitrous oxide emissions.

In extremely boiled-down terms, Renault found that EVs indeed have less of an environmental impact than vehicles powered by fossil fuel, but the numbers change depending on where they are charged up. For example, the lifetime carbon footprint of a Fluence Z.E. driven in France had about half the carbon footprint of an EV driven in the UK. This is because of the UK's relatively dirty sources of electricity production. Compared to the ICE Fluences, that EV in France has about 40 percent of the carbon footprint taken up by a diesel-powered Fluence and less than a third of the carbon footprint of a gas-powered Fluence. The Fluence diesel's superior fuel economy, compared to the gas-powered version, was more than offset by the effects of the oil-burner's nitrous oxide emissions. The Fluence diesel gets about 53 miles per gallon, using the more lenient European driving standard, while the gas-powered Fluence gets about 35 MPG.

Of course, the EV started at a disadvantage, emitting about 60 percent more of a carbon footprint before it even hits the road than the diesel and gas versions thanks, mostly, to the environmentally unfriendly batteries required. For those with some time on their hands, the 116-page report can be found here, and there's also a four-page independent review of Renault's testing methods, which were found to be legit.


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  • 22 Comments
      bluepongo1
      • 1 Day Ago
      I just read about this at: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/517146/are-electric-vehicles-better-for-the-environment-than-gas-powered-ones/ It should be funny to see the trolls focus on the minor downside while ignoring the upsides. http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/canada-is-running-280-times-more-oil-trains-this-year-and-some-of-them-just-exploded
      purrpullberra
      • 1 Day Ago
      I'm not going to read stories by this... 'writer' anymore, I can't keep seeing such blatantly incompetent articles that require vast corrections without loosing even more faith in humanity. I'd suggest rounding up all the factual problems and seeing if he has anything to say on his behalf that justifies all those lies or falsehoods. There is someone 'in charge' right? What does it take? Is he gonna suggest cleaning a car with ammonia and bleach and kill someone? Is he gonna insult readers, further insult I should say? Lying about what Elon has proposed and conflating it with another completely unrelated but similar idea is something a highschool journalism student should get an F for. A supposed pro should be disgraced enough to stop him. Are there any pros working here?
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Day Ago
        @purrpullberra
        I do web development and design for a living. Anyone interested in journalism can get in touch with me, maybe something can be done :) contact info: neptronix ( at ) gmail [ dot ] com facebook ID ( just type it into facebook's search bar ): dave.silverman.902
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Day Ago
      0 out 100,000 gasoline/diesel fanboys will read this and keep thinking that electric cars run on lead acid or nimh from those spooky and terrible Canadian Nickel mines.. ..then fill up their vehicles with oil from the even worse Canadian tar sands.. :P
      bluepongo1
      • 1 Day Ago
      http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/oil-disasters-you-can-see-from-space
      Giza Plateau
      • 1 Day Ago
      Study proves water is wet. Next study will reveal if pigs fly
      Levine Levine
      • 1 Day Ago
      EV is cleaner than ICE? Really? And the sky is blue?
      jeff
      • 1 Day Ago
      The one thing the articles never point out is that it takes between 4-10KwHr of electrical power to refine one gallon of gasoline. Most refineries in the US have their own small power plants and use coal to power them. Since they are a private plant they are exempt from much of the emission regulations and their power tends to be more dirty than the typical grid power plants.... This alone tells you that ICE cars are very unlikely to be more friendly to the environment..... Many oil company hacks like to talk about the energy and toxic waste it takes to manufacture batteries while COMPLETELY ignoring the energy and toxic wastes generated by manufacturing processes used to build an ICE engine.... They also tend to overlook the fact that the oil from one oil change can contaminate thousands of gallons of fresh water and people being people do not always recycle this used oil.... I guess my point is that will al the mis-information and out right lies from the oil companies, I am ok with an overly friendly article about electric car and their environmental impact....
        Jim
        • 1 Day Ago
        @jeff
        Great comment. The dirty energy crowd loves to ignore apples-to-apples comparison of true cradle-to-grave energy cost of fossil fuels. It is telling that just last year so many of these people latched onto the absurd "study" declaring that driving a car creates less pollution than riding a bike.
        Neil Blanchard
        • 1 Day Ago
        @jeff
        Thank you Jeff for making the point I was going to make. The full energy overhead of the electricity is cleaner than just the fuel is for an ICE. Gasoline and diesel does not appear out of thin air. And neither does the materials used in regular maintenance on an ICE. And neither does the aluminum used in the engine block. Neil
      wxman
      • 1 Day Ago
      According to the "independent review", effects of PM emissions were not taken into consideration in the subject report (Section 5.2). Since PM has the highest environmental/health impact of any of the other regulated emissions per gram, this report is incomplete at best.
        BraveLil'Toaster
        • 1 Day Ago
        @wxman
        Translation: I deny that global warming exists, and that humans cause it.
          wxman
          • 1 Day Ago
          @BraveLil'Toaster
          Are you aware that some forms of particulate matter have very strong warming potential (e.g., black carbon), much greater than CO2? I'm not denying anything. If PM isn't included in the assessment, the evaluation is incomplete, not only from a human health damage perspective, but also from an environmental damage perspective, including global warming.
        Ziv
        • 1 Day Ago
        @wxman
        +1 Incomplete but still useful.
      Ziv
      • 1 Day Ago
      So these articles are obviously true if they echo our views and are funded by a company that builds electric cars? But they are filthy lies if they disagree with us and are funded by oil companies? At least Renault pointed out the impact of nuclear power on how clean a BEV is. Which happened to favor a BEV powered by French electricity, oddly enough.
        JakeY
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Ziv
        I think you also have to consider that this puts Renault's own ICE cars in a worse light so it's not 100% in Renault's favor to bias the report. They directly used their own cars to compare rather than a generic average. In contrast, trashing EVs do not have any negative effects on oil companies.
        archos
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Ziv
        Well, oil companies have a much longer track record covering up evil deeds and spreading propaganda. They also have much more to lose. Car companies generally avoid overt deception in studies since that kind of ethic eventually translates into million-car recalls and damaging lawsuits.
        Ziv
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Ziv
        2WM, I agree with you. I just wanted to throw out a reminder that we ought to be questioning authority, even when the authority agrees with us. There were some significant caveats in the 4 page independent review, but those caveats are nitpicking compared to what a similar independent review would say about some of the oil company generated attack pieces on BEV's/EREV's. And I am not an Exxon/Shell/BP basher. I kind of like cheap gasoline. I just don't like it when my money goes to support the house of Saud, Vlad Putin, or the idiot stepson of Hugo Chavez, whether directly or indirectly.
        Nicholas (Kompulsa)
        @Ziv
        Google this: "Stanford: The case for battery electric cars". It also shows that electric cars are cleaner than gas, even when using coal. There is an unfortunate trend of conveying the propaganda of oil companies by oil advocates. For example: Oil advocates point to "studies" from oil companies that their pipelines will create over "500,000 jobs" without doing any fact checking themselves whatsoever, yet they make these claims about bias like you just did. Hypocrisy. Hypocrisy. By the way, that turned out to be 50 permanent jobs.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Ziv
        Yeah okay, true enough. But let's be honest, there is a lot of big oil propaganda out there, it's nice to hear the other side once and a while... :P
        brotherkenny4
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Ziv
        So, the oil companies tell us that we should not buy EVs because they are not green. I believe all the folks using pickup trucks as commuters are also not likely to drive EVs because they are just too dirty. In fact the whole right wing is against EVs only because they are dirty and unsafe. They could blow up and spew toxic waste everywhere. The right wing is for safety and saving the planet.
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