Volkswagen is planning a whole new family of electric cars.

Berlin - Volkswagen has defended the eco credentials of electric cars, citing a new certified test that showed emissions were lower in many cases than diesel cars of the same model.

The study found that a diesel-powered VW Golf produces about 140 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre over the course of its lifetime, including production and over 200 000km of driving.

An electric Golf produces 119 grams of CO2, based on the European Union's current power-generation mix, and 142 grams based on Germany's energy mix.

The findings come as a separate study challenged the notion that e-cars as a cleaner environmental alternative.

German physician Christoph Buchal and economist Hans-Werner Sinn said that once battery production and the German energy mix had been taken into account, electric cars polluted anywhere from 11 to 28 per cent more than diesel. The German government, which has backed incentives for electric cars, disputed the findings.

However, even the Volkswagen-backed study shows that when fed by a coal-heavy power grid (As is the case with Germany, South Africa and many other nations), electric cars still appear more damaging to the environment, at least when it comes to CO2 emissions. The other side of the coin, of course, is that diesel exhaust emissions have been linked to numerous health disorders.

But there could be hope for electric cars if more countries change the way they generate power.

Germany, for instance, is in the midst of an energy transition that will see it shut down coal and nuclear power plants as it moves more decisively to renewable energy sources in the coming decades.

IOL & DPA