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EAFO Analysis: How ‘green’ is the electricity we use to charge our EVs?

Created: 2020-07-07 17:57 | Last change: 2021-02-16 20:46

EAFO Analysis: How ‘green’ is the electricity we use to charge our EVs?

An analysis from the EAFO team.
Authors: Bert Witkamp (Valuad) and Floris Jousma (FIER Automotive & Mobility)



In this analyses, the “Well-to-EV” carbon intensity (CI) of the electricity used to charge European BEVs (M1+N1) is analysed. The BEV fleets sizes and the CI in the different countries, is used to determine the weighted average CI of the European BEV. The determined CI includes the impacts of electricity generation, upstream impacts related to fuel extraction or recovery and the transmission & distribution losses of the network. We define this as the “Well-to-EV” carbon intensity. This approaches the “Well-to-Tank” definition used for ICE vehicles.


The weighted average “Well-to-EV” carbon intensity of European BEVs in 2019 was 186 g CO2 per kWh. This is based on country specific carbon intensity of the electricity available and the size of the BEV fleets in these European countries. The top 15 European BEV fleets represent over 97% of the total European BEV fleet. The top 15 fleet had a weighted CI average of 178 gCO2/kWh in 2019.

The CI of the production of electricity in Europe has reduced considerable over the last years and is estimated to drop to 145 gCO2 per kWh in 2030 according to Eurelectric.

Consumers and charge-point operators often select renewable electricity as their source of electricity, which reduces the average carbon intensity per kWh used to charge EVs further.


The carbon intensity of the EU electricity supply

The European Energy Agency (EEA) provides an overview of the carbon intensity (CI) of the electricity produced of the EU Member States.

To calculate “Well-to-EV” carbon intensities, the CI impacts of the upstream fuel impacts (from fuel extraction or recovery) and the losses from transmission and distribution of electricity to consumers must be added to the EEA production CI.

Losses from charging EVs are already included in the electricity consumption data from EVs when they occur after the meter of the chargepoint. For fast-charging, which represents a very small part of the charging of BEVs, some extra losses might have to be considered when compared to slow charging.

Values for the “Well-to-EV” CI of the electricity supply as defined above:

  • 431 gCO2/kWh in 2008
  • 332 gCO2/kWh in 2017
  • 302 gCO2/kWh in 2019[i].


In the figure below, the “Well-to-EV” CI of the average EU electricity supply 2008-2019 is illustrated. For 2030 including an expected acceleration of renewables based on the EU Green Deal, the production-only CI is estimated to be around 145 gCO2/kWh (source: Eurelectric, production of electricity only)[ii].



Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1  Carbon intensity of electricity “Well-to-EV” in gCO2 per kWh; including CO2 intensity for power generation, upstream emissions from fuels and losses from transmission and distribution. Power generation: up to 2017 EEA data; 2018-2019 Agora/Ember (see data sources below). The 2019 emissions from power generators dropped 12% compared to 2018: less coal, more renewables.


Carbon intensity for the 2019 European BEV fleet (M1 and N1)

The overall production and consumption within the EU are within 1% the same, so the overall carbon intensity for the EU can be calculated easily. For each individual country, the situation is different with some large net exporters or importers of electricity but overall the picture does not change a lot. For the carbon intensity of Norway and Switzerland (both in the top 15 BEV fleets in Europe), data has been used from DG JRC.

Taking the 2019 Agora power generation[iii] data, the upstream impacts, the transmission & distribution losses and the upstream and losses the weighted average of all European BEVs is 186 gCO2/kWh “Well-to-EV”. For the top 15 European BEV countries, the CI is 178 gCO2/kWh.



Figure 2 The top 15 European BEV fleets represent over 97% of the BEVs in Europe and have a weighted average impact of 178 gCO2/kWh (2019 Agora data) “Well-to-EV” (sources: Agora, EEA, JRC, CEER, Eurocoal, EAFO research).
The bubble size indicates the total carbon footprint of the BEV fleet in a country.


Consumers and charge-point operators make EVs even “greener”

Many consumers for “at home” charging and charge-point operators already opt for renewable electricity to charge their EVs. From an Eurelectric survey[iv] it was concluded that 93% of the EU population has the option to charge their electric vehicle on a 100% RES basis.



Figure 3  Eurelectric factsheet based on a survey of Eurelectric members


Main data sources

1                 For the GHG footprint (or: CO2 intensity) of the production of electricity the EEA (European Environmental Agency)[v], data up to 2017 are available. For 2018-2019, Agora (with Sandbag) has published data in its 2020 report[vi]. both use EUROSTAT data (or in our case, the 2018 2019 estimates of EUROSTAT data).  Both EEA and Agora/Sandbag use Eurostat data but they use different emissions sources. EEA uses national emissions as reported to the UNFCCC, Agora uses EU-ETS verified emissions of power sector installations as defined by Ember (Sandbag). Sandbag has estimated 2018/2019 data based on Eurostat reporting.

2                 For the transmission and distribution losses the 2020 report from CEER (Council of European Energy Regulators)[vii], some missing data points have been obtained from the CEER 2016 report on the same topic and by extrapolation of data.

3                 For upstream emission factors related to the extraction/recovery of fossil fuels, including nuclear fuel, data as published by DG JRC (values adopted for Europe) in 2018[viii] are used; for the ratio of the different fuels used EEA data has been used. In the EEA data[ix], “lignite and hard coal” are one category and as the extraction of lignite and hard coal have (very) different emission factors, the distribution of the lignite/hard coal per country (in time) has been obtained from published values by Eurocoal[x].

4                 Carbon intensity in each country also varies in time with different power generation sources on- or off-line and there can be an impact of the import of electricity from other countries. The figure below illustrates these variations; it can also be seen that the difference between carbon intensity of production or consumption in a country is in general very limited. As Eurostat data is on production, the carbon intensity calculations are based on production data.




Figure 4  Real-Time Carbon Intensities (2017) in European Electricity Markets [xi]



[i] For the estimation of 2019 CI data, the Agora production CI is used as basis and to which (partly extrapolated) 2018 and 2019 CI for upstream impacts and transmission & distribution losses are added.

[ii] Informal estimate related to Green Deal ambitions, personal communication

[iii] This needs to be confirmed as the report mentions EEA as data source

[iv] Eurelectric factsheet on public charging infrastructure

[v] EEA, publication including 2017 data, historic data have been adapted here as well

[vi] Agora Energiewende and Sandbag (2020): The European Power Sector in 2019: Up-to-Date Analysis on the Electricity Transition. As the 2020 report, does not align with the 2019 report, the 2018 data are taken from the 2020 report.  

[vii] 2nd CEER Report on Power Losses Energy Quality of Supply Work Stream Ref: C19-EQS-101-03 21 February 2020

[viii] Electricity carbon intensity in European Member States: Impacts on GHG emissions of electric vehicles, DG JRC, 2018

[ix] EEA, Gross electricity production by fuel, 2018

[x] The European Association for Coal and Lignite – EURACOAL

[xi] Supplementary material to: Real-Time Carbon Accounting Method for the European Electricity Markets, Bo Tranberga et al, Ento Labs ApS, Aarhus C, Denmark