Electric cars are better for the environment over their lifetime than petrol-powered counterparts, a new study has found. It counteracts a common thought that electric vehicles contribute just as much to carbon emissions as combustion-engined cars, through the production of electricity needed to run them.

However, a new study by Radboud University, alongside the universities of Exeter and Cambridge, found UK electric vehicles produce 30 per cent less emissions over the course of their lifetime.

The effect is even more noticeable in countries such as Sweden and France - which generate more of their power from renewable sources - where lifetime electric car emissions are 70 per cent lower than petrol cars.

The research looked at how the pollution of petrol and electric vehicles compared in 59 regions across the world - including Europe, America and China - while accounting for how the production of energy differed between countries. It also incorporated the emissions from the vehicle's manufacturing process.

Florian Knobloch, environmental scientist at Radboud University and the lead author of the study, said: “The idea that electric vehicles or electric heat pumps could increase emissions is essentially a myth. We've seen a lot of discussion about this recently, with lots of disinformation going around. Here is a definitive study that can dispel those myths. We have run the numbers for all around the world, looking at a whole range of cars and heating systems. Even in our worst-case scenario, there would be a reduction in emissions in almost all cases."

He added: "The answer is clear: to reduce carbon emissions, we should choose electric cars and household heat pumps over fossil-fuel alternatives."

The study states that the only exceptions are in countries such as Poland, which still relies heavily on fuels such as coal to generate electricity. However, researchers believe that these countries will soon catch up with others as more renewable forms of energy production are adopted.