There are no doubts about it: when you use an electric vehicle, you are producing no emissions at all while you are travelling. That means no CO2 or any other toxic particles. However, the first electric vehicle (EV) cliché is based around this idea. It targets the concepts that lie at the heart of these vehicles, namely their impact on the environment and the climate (such as raw materials for manufacturing the batteries and how the electricity is produced).
Scientists from three European universities (Exeter, Cambridge and Nijmegen) have conducted in-depth analysis on the life cycles of EVs and the removal of materials at the end of the vehicles’ operating lives. Their conclusions, which were recently published in Nature Sustainability, are clear: EVs do indeed create CO2 savings across 95% of the world compared to conventional vehicles. The only exceptions are countries that are highly dependent on carbon.
The average emissions from electric vehicles across their entire operating lives are up to 70% lower than emissions from petrol cars in countries like Sweden and France (which get the majority of their electricity from renewable and nuclear energy) and up to 65% lower in Belgium.
Another study from the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E) lobbying body concluded that an average electric car from the EU sold in 2020 will emit the equivalent of around 90 g of CO2/km over its entire operating life, compared to 234 g for a diesel car and 253 g for a petrol car. This includes upstream emissions, which are emissions produced when the vehicle is being manufactured.
Embracing EVs therefore goes back to the idea of taking action to protect people's health (zero emissions while driving) and the climate (reduced emissions during their operating life compared to combustion engines), which is a very fashionable concept nowadays.