Electric vehicles have significantly lower life cycle emissions than internal combustion vehicles, study finds


A new study conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has finally put an end to claims that electric vehicles (EVs) are not much cleaner than combustion engine vehicles and produce similar amount of carbon during their life cycle.

The study, which is based on the data from Europe, the US, China, and India, says that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have by far the lowest life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to different types of vehicles.

Moreover, the emission savings are set to improve in coming years, with better access to clean, renewable energy sources.

The aim of the ICCT study was to understand how the transportation sector across the world needs to align with efforts to achieve the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming.

The study involved a lifecycle analysis of BEVs, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), and internal combustion vehicles.

It also took into account the present and estimated future greenhouse gas emissions attributable to different stages in the lifecycles of both vehicles and fuels - from extracting raw material to making batteries for vehicles.

The researchers then compiled driving data for four different markets that currently account for nearly 70 per cent of the world's vehicle purchases.

The study found that the lifecycle emissions of a BEV in Europe today are 66-69 per cent lower than a comparable petrol-powered car. For other regions, the range is 60-68 per cent lower in the US, 37-45 per cent lower in China, and 19-34 per cent lower in India.

"We have a lot of lobby work from parts of the automotive industry saying that electric vehicles are not that much better if you take into account the electricity production and the battery production. We wanted to look into this and see whether these arguments are true," said ICCT researcher Georg Bieker.

He hopes the latest findings will help policymakers in making more informed decisions about the future of transportation.

Peter Mock, ICCT managing director for Europe, said that results highlight the importance of grid decarbonisation alongside vehicle electrification.

"The life-cycle GHG performance of electric cars will improve as grids decarbonise, and regulations that promote electrification are crucial to capturing the future benefits of renewable energy," he added.