What is the carbon footprint of a VW Golf?

Buying an electric car is good for the environment.  But how good?  Although there are no emissions from the exhaust pipe, the electricity has to be produced somewhere.  And the carbon intensity of that electricity varies hugely from country to country depending on the fossil fuel, renewable and nuclear energy mix.  

But there is another factor.  In many countries, including the UK, consumers are able to choose to purchase ‘green’ electricity where the carbon footprint is low (but not zero).  So showing the carbon footprint of an electric vehicle is not that simple, particularly as most countries have committed to de-carbonising the grid electricity.

We wanted to find a way to quickly get across this message and so produced this demo visual of the weekly emissions of three different VW Golf models based on a 7,900 annual mileage - the UK average. In addition to the electric version charged from grid average electricity we have included a view of the footprint for green electricity from Ecotricity.     

These images can be downloaded from our Flick page.

Ultimately our aim is to build a simple app that would enable dealers to show customers a clear demonstration of the actual carbon emissions associated with their existing vehicle compared to the potential electric replacement.  This could be tailored to the customer's own driving habits, commuting mileage etc.  And it could also show the (lack of) local air pollutants and other useful information - whether a VW Golf or any other make.

See the video we made for the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) that shows the volumes of metal, glass, rubber and plastic used in the world's cars here.  It also shows why we need to move to electric cars powered by renewable electricity!

Data is from Next Green Car