What if we swapped every car in the UK to electric and how would this impact our CO₂ emissions?

 

If every car in the UK went electric overnight header

Together with the rest of the world, the UK is in a continuous battle to lower its CO₂ emissions to reach net zero by 2050 [1]. With new technologies come new innovations and as we begin to utilise solar and wind power and increase our recycling efforts, it appears the country is going in the right direction.

We’re seeing a big focus in the automotive industry – more specifically, the adoption of electric cars. Currently, we estimate that UK cars emit more than 64 billion tonnes of CO₂ each year.

At elmo, we conducted a thought experiment to estimate how much we could reduce our CO₂ emissions if we swapped every car in the UK to an electric car overnight.

How much CO₂ do cars in the UK currently produce?

According to our calculations, internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in the UK produce a staggering 64 billion tonnes of CO₂ emissions from the tailpipe every year. While car manufacturers are committed to pure hybrid or electric car sales by 2030, [2] it appears that we’re still a long way from hitting the UK’s CO₂ emissions target of net zero by 2050.

Total CO emissions for all ICEs in the UK (tonnes)
Average tailpipe CO₂ emissions of ICE car (g/mile)
221.4
UK annual average mileage (car)
7,600
Average annual tailpipe CO₂ emissions per ICE car (tonnes)
1.68
Number of ICEs in the UK
38,420,000
Total CO₂ emissions for ICE cars in the UK (tonnes)
64,647,029
Total CO emissions if all cars in the UK were electric (tonnes)
Average CO₂ emissions from charging and producing an electric car (g/mile)
34.2
UK annual average mileage (car)
7,600
Average annual tailpipe CO₂ emissions per electric car (tonnes)
0.26
Number of ICE cars in the UK
38,420,000
Total CO₂ emissions for ICE cars in the UK if they were swapped to electric cars (tonnes)
9,986,126
Difference in annual CO₂ emissions should all ICE cars be swapped for electric cars
54,660,903

Our thought experiment worked out the emission savings that could be made if we swapped every ICE car in the UK to an electric car overnight. If this were to happen, 54 billion tonnes of CO₂ would be prevented from entering the atmosphere every year.

In total, the UK emits 424.5 billion tonnes of CO₂ each year [3]. So, if all the ICE cars were switched to electric cars, we could reduce our total CO₂ emissions by 13%.

The UK’s current goal is to see CO₂ emissions slashed 78% by 2035 [4] and our thought experiment shows that the transition from ICEs to EVs could play a big role in this.

How much of an impact would changing to electric cars make on the UK’s carbon footprint?

Our thought experiment worked out the emission savings that could be made if we swapped every ICE car in the UK to an electric car overnight. If this were to happen, 54 billion tonnes of CO₂ would be prevented from entering the atmosphere every year.

In total, the UK emits 424.5 billion tonnes of CO₂ each year [3]. Should the UK immediately switch all ICEs to electric vehicles overnight, we could see a potential saving of 13% on carbon dioxide emissions. 

The UK’s current goal is to see CO₂ emissions slashed 78% by 2035 [4] and our thought experiment shows, the transition from ICEs to EVs could play a big role in this.

Infographic showing what if every car in the UK went electric overnight

What does this mean in the real world?

54 billion tonnes of CO, is the equivalent emissions to:

    • Heating more than 20 million homes
    • Building more than 840,000 new homes
    • Running more than 13,000 wind turbine
    • The total CO emissions of more than 5.4 million people in the UK every year
    • More than 17 million tonnes of waste recycled instead of going into landfill

What’s more, by removing ICEs from UK roads we could help save 32,000 lives a year that are currently lost as a result of air pollution.

To conclude, the UK still has some distance to go before we start to see a dramatic drop in CO₂ emissions. However, with new Government schemes and technologies advancing, it certainly appears that we are moving in the right direction. Our thought experiment has highlighted the possibilities we have in reducing our carbon footprint with the shift from fossil fuel powered cars to electrically powered.

For the automotive industry, switching to electric cars not only saves consumers money, but also helps save tailpipe emissions produced in the UK. Our subscription service allows motorists to switch to electric cars without having a long-term commitment.

For more information on our experiment, please get in touch at hello@elmodrive.com.

FAQs

How many emissions could moving to electric vehicles save the UK?

If all UK cars were to turn electric overnight, we could see a drop in a staggering 54.6 Billion tonnes of COemissions.

What percentage of the UK’s carbon emissions could we save by moving to electric?

Should the UK move all ICE to electric cars, it could save the equivalent of 13% of the UK’s total carbon emissions.

How does moving all UK cars to electric compare to current emission offsetting processes?

Moving to electric cars could save CO emissions equivalent to heating more than 20 million homes, building more than 840,000 houses and running more than 13,000 wind turbines.

Methodology

In order to calculate how much CO could be saved from moving all ICE vehicles to electric cars, we used the average CO emissions produced from ICE cars, multiplying this figure by the number of ICE cars in the UK, giving a total figure for CO emissions from ICE cars per year. 

Next, we multiplied the volume of CO emissions produced by electric cars by the total number of ICE vehicles in the UK (giving ICE vehicles the same emissions as electric cars) to calculate the CO emissions that could be saved if all ICE cars were electric.

Sources

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/net-zero-strategy

[2]https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-takes-historic-step-towards-net-zero-with-end-of-sale-of-new-petrol-and-diesel-cars-by-2030

[3] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1064921/2021-uk-ghg-provisional-figures-statistical-summary.pdf

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-enshrines-new-target-in-law-to-slash-emissions-by-78-by-2035

Data

The full data set can be found here.

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