Good coal Bad Cars

Last year New Zealand imported more than a million tonnes of high emissions producing coal (source) to generate electricity. In this blog post we want to learn how many combustion engine vehicles would have produced the same CO2 as a million tonnes of coal.

The problems with replacing Petrol cars with EVs

The import of coal to generate electricity looks bad given that the government declared climate emergency in the same year. It looks even worse in view of the fact that in June this year James Shaw the minister for climate change announced a clean car rebate to encourage uptake of electric vehicles and discourage import of cars that run on petrol/diesel. NZ has to change its vehicle fleet particularly its passenger cars to electric if it is to meet its climate change objectives. If NZ can not meet its electricity needs right now when EVs are less than a percent of the overall fleet numbers then the expected increase in EV numbers will increase household power bills in the future because of supply shortages. More fossil fuels will have to be burnt to generate enough electricity. To be fair last year could be a one-off. The decrease in water levels in dams that caused lower electricity generation is not something that happens every single year but once in a few years. Nevertheless the coal was bought and burnt and it did produce emissions. We want to get a sense of the amount of emissions released by comparing it to CO2 released by passenger cars.

Using the GEN LESS emissions calculator we see that 1 million tonne of Bituminous coal produces about 2.7 million tonnes of CO2. Reports suggest that the cheapest type of coal was imported which leads us to assume that it was Bituminous coal the highest emission producing type of coal. The same amount of CO2 is produced when about 1.1 billion litres of petrol is burnt.

Let us further assume that a typical passenger car consumes 40 litres of petrol a week, or rounding the numbers downwards about 2000 litres in a year. The number could be higher in Auckland where people have to commute larger distances and smaller in small towns. Under these assumptions the 1.1 billion litres would be consumed by about 600 thousand cars.

Importing more than a million tonnes of coal last year has had the same impact as adding about half a million passenger cars to the NZ fleet for a year. The current rate at which electric vehicles are being added to the NZ fleet, it would be at least until 2025 when we could see half a million EVs. The question then is did the climate change commission take last year’s coal import into their account when laying out their plan?

The one good thing about this hypothetical scenario is that it did not happen because in the real world adding extra vehicles to the fleet in addition to producing emissions also produces material waste and scrap cars. But for those vehicles already on our roads, if you are thinking about getting rid of your car then give our Scrap Car Removal service a try.


As always, don’t forget to check out our services and products page DEOL Car Solutions. For additional information Contact us by filling out the contact form or send us an email or for that matter call us. We buy wrecked and scrap vehicles and pay cash that is above market price.