Electric mobility and climate change – Facts and Fiction (Carbon Brief)

In this analysis, Carbon Brief finds [1]:

  • EVs are responsible for considerably lower emissions over their lifetime than conventional (internal combustion engine) vehicles across Europe as a whole.

  • In countries with coal-intensive electricity generation, the benefits of EVs are smaller and they have similar lifetime emissions to the most efficient conventional vehicles – such as hybrid-electric models.

  • However, as countries decarbonise electricity generation to meet their climate targets, driving emissions will fall for existing EVs and manufacturing emissions will fall for new EVs.

  • Comparisons between electric vehicles and conventional vehicles are complex. They depend on the size of the vehicles, the accuracy of the fuel-economy estimates used, how electricity emissions are calculated, what driving patterns are assumed, and even the weather in regions where the vehicles are used. There is no single estimate that applies everywhere.

Prof Jeremy Michalek, director of the Vehicle Electrification Group at Carnegie Mellon University, cautions:

“EVs are not currently a panacea for climate change…lifecycle GHG emissions from electric vehicles can be similar to or even greater than the most efficient gasoline or diesel vehicles [in the US].”

Unfortunately, this review did not comment on  other critical aspects of e-mobility:

  • Does the electric grid infracstructure scale to the demand on peak demands on electricity to charge electric vehicles?
  • Are sufficient ressources, e.g. rare earths, available to produce enough electric cars to meet climate targets?
  • How should ethical aspects to produce the required ressources, esp. rare earths for batteries, be dealt with? For example, cobalt mining in the Kongo is performed under exploitation and health risks of (child) workers [2] . Lithium mining in Chile emits poisonous substances into the enviroment [3].

To be continued …


[1] CarbonBrief (2019-05-13).  Factcheck: How electric vehicles help to tackle climate change. https://www.carbonbrief.org/factcheck-how-electric-vehicles-help-to-tackle-climate-change

[²] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mining_industry_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo

[³] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_issues_in_Chile