Electric vs combustion vehicle life-cycle emissions — the winner is clear

The carbon footprint of electric vehicles (EVs) compared to internal combustion engine vehicles has been proven to be far lower, even when considering the source of energy, battery production, repairs, and recycling.

A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that electric vehicles, from production to retirement, produce far lower greenhouse gasses than do internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs).

The study accounted for production, maintenance, and fuel or electricity usage over an 18-year lifecycle, together with the post-usage impact of the vehicle after its life cycle.

It also took into account the infrastructure surrounding the production of vehicles such as factories, material extraction, processing, and transport.

Spanning across for regions — China, India, Europe and the USA — the study found that the life-cycle emissions of a medium-sized EV is lower than that of an ICEV by 37%-45% in China, 19%-34% in India, 60%-68% in Europe, and 66%-69% in the USA.

EV vs ICEV Carbon Footprint in 2021 and 2030 (Click to enlarge)

The impact of the sources supplying power to EV charging grids was also taken into account.

The study found that regardless of whether the grid receives power from clean energy sources or high-emission sources like coal, EVs are invariably greener than ICEVs.

According to the report, if we are to reach the global goal of greenhouse gas reductions as outlined by the Paris agreement, the current emissions of road vehicles will have to be 80% less.

A variety of fuel types and power sources were taken into account, which included petrol, diesel, natural gas, biofuels, e-fuels, hydrogen, and electricity.

The report concluded that fully electric vehicles will be the only viable option if the auto industry is to reduce emissions in line with the Paris agreement. Hybrid, biofuel, and hydrogen vehicles have satisfactorily low carbon footprints.

Companies have started to direct production goals that are in line with what the study found. Mercedes was the most recent example, promising to spend $47 billion (R689 billion) in the next decade to massively reduce its carbon emissions.

Electric vehicle dealer Eleksa has plans to launch an electric vehicle in South Africa for as low as R200,000.

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Electric vs combustion vehicle life-cycle emissions — the winner is clear