Are Electric Vehicles Solutions to Climate Change?

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The CarbonBrief article, “Factcheck: how electric vehicles help to tackle climate change” that Zeke Hausfather authored, discusses the merits of electric vehicles in producing low CO2 emissions compared to conventional – internal combustion engine cars and responding to ‘misleading media reports on the topic’.

It also discussed results and provides analysis of researches on emissions of electric vehicles (EV), and presented some figures taken from the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT).

The following are some of the highlights of the article.

  • While EV’s do not emit greenhouse gases, they run on electricity largely produced by fossil fuels, and energy is used to make the batteries which emit CO2.
  • In general, EV’s have low emissions during their lifetime compared to conventional – internal combustion engine cars.
  • In countries highly dependent on coal for energy, the impacts of EV’s in emissions are smaller.
  • There is a gap in the calculations in EV’s emissions as different studies show different calculations.
  • Half of the emissions come from the electricity used to produce EV’s batteries. Increased use of renewable energy to produce batteries can substantially lower emissions as with the case of the popular Tesla Model 3 electric car.
  • A group of German researchers has released a paper saying that electric car’s CO2 emissions are slightly higher than those of diesel-engine cars. The result of the study, according to the article, is favouring diesel engines which is emblematic of Germany. The paper has received some pushbacks from electric vehicle advocates.  Shortly thereafter, another research in Germany on electric vehicles shows that it has 43% lower emissions compared to diesel engines and ‘have lower climate impacts compared with internal combustion engines’.
  • Analysis by the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT), compares emissions from a typical European internal combustion engine car, a hybrid with the best fuel economy, and a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle in various countries. It measured emissions from the following: tailpipe (grey), from the fuel cycle (oil production, refining, electricity generation, and transport), and from manufacturing the non-battery components of the vehicle, and emissions from battery manufacturing.

In general, the ICCT analysis has shown that CO2 emissions are lower in electric cars compared with conventional cars. It’s interesting to note that in Germany, the Nissan Leaf (EV) shows higher emissions than the hybrid (Toyota Prius Eco).  Norway and France show the highest difference in emissions – much lower emissions in EV’s compared with conventional and hybrid cars.

The analysis also shows varying amounts of emissions in fuel cycle in other countries, however, emissions from manufacturing the non-battery components on all types of cars (EV, hybrid, and conventional) remains almost the same.

There is a higher CO2 emission when batteries are manufactured in Asia – at 85 grams per kilometre compared to just 35 grams per km when the batteries are produced in the US and Europe because Asia uses coal for electricity.

However, as EV’s production grows so is the use of renewable energy to produce and power EV’s which can significantly lower CO2 emissions, the article says.

  • The article also investigates the fuel economy of electric vehicles (EV’s) comparing it with conventional cars. And notes that there is a difference between the ‘test-cycle fuel economy values’ and the ‘real-world performance’. So, the result varies depending on what fuel-economy testing procedures are used to determine fuel economy. However, when using more realistic estimates on fuel-economy, the result favours EV’s.
  • The article also provides an analysis of the differences in car emissions using studies published between 2010 and 2016.  It shows high emissions when batteries are produced in Asia compared with Europe and the United States. These studies, however, recognised the rapid evolution of battery technology and its potential to reduce emissions soon.

Electric Vehicles seem to be the best way forward when it comes to climate change actions and reducing CO2 emissions based on the studies described in the article.

Although studies have shown EV has low CO2 emissions during its life cycle compared to conventional cars, the mass production of batteries poses a challenge. We need to have a recycling technology at a scale that is safe and will reduce waste.

Also, the electricity and energy needed to run EV’s and produce all its parts, and the construction of its infrastructures should all come from renewable or clean energy sources.

The article presents more details and figures on electric car emissions in all areas of its production.  Read the entire article here:

Do you want to cite the article source? Use the reference below:

Hausfather, Z. (2019, May 13). Factcheck: How electric vehicles help to tackle climate change. CarbonBrief [Article]. Retrieved from

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