When it comes to the sustainability impact of EVs, there has been some debate about just how much better for the environment they really are. Much of the research has so far failed to take account of the fact that EV technology and the whole sustainability ecosystem is still developing, whereas the petrol/diesel ecosystem is already mature. To address this issue, new forward-looking lifecycle analysis has been conducted by Transport & Environment (T&E) (ii), focusing on comparisons of the CO2 emissions of electric, diesel and petrol engines for 2020 and 2030. The study (iii) has revealed that an average electric vehicle is already close to three times ‘cleaner’ than an equivalent passenger car with an internal combustion engine (ICE), and is set to become four times cleaner by 2030 as the EU economy continues to decarbonise.
The T&E lifecycle analysis considers not only the carbon intensity of the electricity used to charge the EV over the vehicle’s entire lifetime, but also factors such as where vehicles and batteries are produced and the transportation involved. The study considers various scenarios for the decarbonisation of the electricity grid based on the current and expected future uptake of renewable energies (e.g. solar and wind energy), and demonstrates that EVs outperform diesel and petrol vehicles in all scenarios:
- Worst-case scenario
EV battery produced in China + EV driven in Poland (which has a coal-rich electricity grid): 22% less CO2 than diesel vehicle / 28% less CO2 than petrol vehicle
- Best-case scenario
EV battery produced in Sweden + EV driven in Sweden (where the grid is highly based on renewable energy): 80% less CO2 than diesel vehicle / 81% less CO2 than petrol vehicle