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Experts say EVs have lower lifetime emissions than gasoline-powered vehicles

A charging point for electric vehicles in Stoke-on-Trent, England.

Nathan Stark | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The number of electric cars on the roads of the world is skyrocketing, Hit a record number last year..

That would seem like good news as the world is trying to pull itself away from the fossil fuels that are destroying the Earth’s climate. However, as the popularity of electric vehicles grows, there is also the question of how environmentally friendly they are.

For example, the battery of an electric vehicle is charged with the power supplied directly from the power grid. The power grid itself is often powered by fossil fuels. Then there is the question of how energy intensive it is to make an EV or EV battery compared to making an equivalent traditional vehicle.

Are Electric Vehicles More Eco-friendly?

The simple answer is yes — but their full green potential is still years away.

Experts widely agree that electric vehicles emit less carbon dioxide throughout their lives than vehicles and trucks that use traditional internal combustion engines.

last year, Researchers at the University of Cambridge, University of Exeter and Radboud University in the Netherlands In 95% of the world, we found that driving an electric car is better for the environment than driving a gasoline car.

Most power grids in the world are still powered by fossil fuels such as coal and oil, and EVs rely on that energy to charge. Apart from this, EV battery production remains an energy-intensive process.

The production of electric vehicles leads to significantly higher emissions than the production of gasoline vehicles … this is mainly due to the production of batteries.

Florianno block

Cambridge Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Governance Center

NS Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative EV battery and fuel production has been found to produce higher emissions than car production. However, these high environmental costs are gradually offset by the excellent energy efficiency of EVs.

In short, battery-powered vehicles have lower total emissions per mile than comparable vehicles with internal combustion engines.

“Looking at the current situation, in some countries electric vehicles are better on the current grid,” said Sergei Palzev, senior researcher and author of the study at the MIT Energy Initiative. Told CNBC. ..

Paltsev explained that the full benefits of EVs can only be realized after the power supply becomes renewable, which can take decades.

Read more about CNBC Pro electric cars

“Currently, US electric vehicles emit about 200 grams of CO2 per mile on average,” he said. “By cleaning up the grid, we predict that emissions from electric vehicles will be reduced by 75% from the current 200 (grams) to about 50 grams of CO2 per mile in 2050.”

Similarly, according to Parzev, hybrid vehicles other than plug-ins with internal combustion engines currently emit about 275 grams of CO2 per mile, according to a MIT study. By 2050, projected emissions will be 160-205 grams of CO2 per mile. Fuel standards vary from location to location, so the range is wider than EVs.

Decarbonization is the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Efforts to reduce pollution in various industries are expected to further reduce the environmental impact of EV production and charging in the long run.

“Looking forward to the remaining decade of heavy decarbonization in power plants and heavy decarbonization in the industrial sector, EVs are all decarbonized,” said Eric Hanon, based in Frankfurt. Will benefit from the conversion. ” A McKinsey & Company partner told CNBC.

The battery is the largest emitter

The EV operates using a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. From the use of mining raw materials such as cobalt and lithium to production in Gigafactory and transportation, the manufacturing process of these batteries consumes a lot of energy and is the largest source of carbon emissions from EVs today, according to experts. It is one.

Gigafactory is a facility that produces EV batteries on a large scale.

“Electric vehicle production leads to significantly higher emissions than gasoline vehicle production. Depending on the country of origin, production emissions will increase by 30% to 40%, mainly for batteries. It is produced by the Cambridge Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Governance Center.

These higher production emissions are considered to be “initial investment and will be recovered fairly quickly as lifetime emissions are reduced.”

Currently, China dominates battery production, with 93 Gigafactory producing lithium-ion battery cells, while the United States produces only four. The Washington Post reported this year..

“I think batteries are the most complex component of an EV and have the most complex supply chain,” George Crabtree, director of the US Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, told CNBC about batteries. Production makes a big difference in EV carbon dioxide emissions.

Batteries manufactured at the old Gigafactory in China are usually powered by fossil fuels. This is because it was a trend 5 to 10 years ago. In other words, an EV made from an existing factory battery

But It’s changing“People are aware that it is a huge carbon dioxide emission,” he said.

Experts have pointed out other considerations regarding battery production.

This includes unethical and environmentally unsustainable mining practices and the complex geopolitical nature of supply chains that do not want to rely on other countries for raw materials such as cobalt and lithium and finished batteries.

According to Crabtree, mining the raw materials needed to produce batteries is likely to be the last material to be decarbonized.

Grid recycling and decarbonization

today, A small portion of used battery cells are recycled..

According to experts, the limited supply of raw materials needed to produce batteries can change over time and companies have no choice but to recycle.

Hanon of McKinsey outlined other reasons why companies are pursuing recycling efforts. They include a regulatory environment where producers are required by law to dispose of used batteries — and disposing of them can be more expensive.

“People who point out the lack of recycling infrastructure as a problem are not aware that we don’t need a large recycling infrastructure yet because the car is so new. We don’t need a lot of backpacks. “He said.

He added that most car companies are already working to ensure significant recycling capacity before EVs reach their end of life in the next decade.

It is not a silver bullet to mitigate climate change.Ideally, we will also try to significantly reduce the number of cars and promote public transportation etc.

Florianno block

Cambridge Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Governance Center

Knobloch of the University of Cambridge said much research is being done to improve battery technology, make it environmentally sustainable, and reduce its reliance on rare raw materials.Needs more effort Decarbonization of power grid, He added.

“It’s very important that more renewable capacity is added to the grid each year than coal capacity,” says Knobloch.

“Currently, it’s much easier to build large-scale solar and offshore wind farms than to build new fossil fuel power plants. More renewable energy is flowing into the grid around the world. You can see that there is. “

Still, he pointed out that using renewable energy sources to generate electricity emits greenhouse gases because they are emitted from the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines. “What we are looking at is how long it will take for the power grid to be fully decarbonized so that we can make a big profit from electric vehicles,” Knobloch added.

Policies necessary for social change

Experts agree that the transition from petrol cars to EVs is not a panacea for the global fight against climate change.

It needs to be closely linked to increased use of public transport and social changes that promote alternative modes of transportation such as biking and walking.

Sufficient funding and policymaking are needed to reduce the use of private cars.

MIT’s Paltsev, deputy director of the University’s Joint Program on Global Change Science and Policy, currently has approximately 1.2 billion fuel cell vehicles on the road worldwide, ranging from 1.8 billion to 2 billion.

By comparison, there are currently only about 10 million electric vehicles.

People underestimate how many new cars need to be produced and how much material is needed to produce those electric cars, Parzev said.

NS International Energy Agency predicts The number of electric vehicles, buses, vans and heavy trucks on the road is expected to reach 145 million by 2030.

According to Knobloch, even if everyone drives an EV instead of a petrol car, the amount of plug-in vehicles is so large that the emissions from the plug-in vehicles will be high.

“That is, it’s not a silver bullet to mitigate climate change. Ideally, we’re going to drastically reduce the number of cars and promote public transport,” he said. “Keeping people away from the transportation of individual cars is just as important.”

Experts say EVs have lower lifetime emissions than gasoline-powered vehicles

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