Germany’s Dirty Green Cars

Germany’s worst industrial scandal in recent memory arrived when auto companies fiddled with emissions tests to make diesel cars seem greener than they are. Now a new study suggests that electric cars touted as a diesel alternative also aren’t so great for the environment.

A study this month by the IFO think tank in Munich found that a popular electric car releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than a comparable diesel engine. The authors compared CO2 output for a Tesla Model 3 and a Mercedes C220d sedan. They calculated that the diesel Mercedes releases about 141 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven, including the carbon emitted to drill, refine and transport its fuel. The Tesla? Between 156 and 181 grams.

The main Tesla problem—and subject of a long-running debate—concerns the CO2 emitted to manufacture the battery. The IFO report pegs this at between 73 and 98 grams per kilometer, assuming a 10-year battery life at 15,000 kilometers of driving per year.

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