Electric cars emit less CO₂ than gas cars. But to get maximum benefits, we need to decarbonise our electricity quickly.
Always thought EVs are better on a long term basis but a 2-3 years (in case of UK) payback on production emissions is awesome.
This is a very good analysis, however I think a few more issues should be also considered. The lifetime assumption of 10 years is good for new cars, but for older cars, depending on the age when bought the lithium ion batteries may be need to be replaced within that time, incurring the batteries manufacture hit once again. The other issue is that cost is not considered and the analysis assumes a single car. Right now a small percentage of cars is electric, but if even half of all new cars were electric then until the battery/electric motor mineral supply chain ramps up the cost of electric vehicles will go up significantly. If the goal is to reduce emissions from the current level, using batteries in hybrid vehicles ( which use a much smaller number of batteries than a full BEV) would reduce emission even more since many more of them could be produced for the same amount of money. For example replacing 50% of all existing cars with hybrids that get double the mileage of current cars would reduce the emissions by 25% the same as replacing only 25% of existing cars with fully electric ones. The problems of upgrading grids and adding charging stations is also a hidden cost, since, like it or not, the petroleum infrastructure is already fully built out.
This was a FANTASTIC ANALYSIS. There are outliers however. What the last 15+ years of production have taught is that Toyota Hybrids as a fleet have MUCH LONGER useful lives than nearly all other vehicles except perhaps SMALL HEAVY POLUTING DIESELS. Furthermore, the technology of the electric motors has even allowed the use of NIckel Metal Hydride batteries ratherr than the less exotic expensive and nearly impossible to recycle sealed Li-ion battery units ala Tesla. Finally, a very strange factor as to useful life has emerged amongst the electric vehicle leader Tesla. Tesla has been cutting edge in adoption of certain manufacturing technology, more closely associated with aircraft manufacture in many cases including heavy use of adhesives and very large tonnage presses making single parts that if damaged total the complete vehicle! All of these things are great for the manufacture and profit of the vehicle but distorts claims regarding useful life. The recent emergence of data that shows INSURERS TOTALING TESLA Y models at mileage as low as 10K raises a great concern about the true USEFUL LIFE of these vehicles. By comparison everyone knows someone who drove a Toyota for sometimes 20+ years and they just keep rolling. All of this could be part of an edge analysis since a Toyota hybrid provide 10 wonderful replacements for current basic ICE for the equivalent battery cell requirements of a single Tesla. The future is certainly BEV but WELL EXECUTED HYBRIDS likely contribute more to the reduction in greenhouse gases because of the EXTREME SIZE OF BATTERIES still included in full BEV.
A fair comparison context -- A Toyota Prius has an 8.8kW battery while the most modest Tesla Model 3 requires 50-82kW so the fairest comparison is what is the impact of 5-9 Priuses replacing ICE versus only one ICE being removed from service by a single Tesla. Food for thought. A case can be made the impact of 8 less ICEs by vehicles that operate in the same basic region of efficiency as the very best BEV might be an even better solution!
Your writing is FABULOUS and so happy to have become a new subscriber!
As usual, a very good analysis and cogent argument. Another "fun fact" is that less than 20% of the energy in motor gasoline makes it to the wheels, which explains why the engines are so hot. With electric vehicles, 90% of the energy makes it to the wheels.
Great article Hannah. Current battery design and degradation suggests that EV’s will need to have their batteries replaced over the time span reviewed. As Buzen says above, it would be interesting to see that data included too.
On a broader note, while there is no dispute over CO2 emissions at point of use, why do we only look at CO2? There are many other harmful substances, such as brake dust - which is both carcinogenic and can be a major factor in causes of asthma. Both EV and ICE use brake systems that emit toxic particles at point of use. While zero/low CO2 massively helps towards cleaner air, until we start tackling the other elements Im not sure we are being totally honest with ourselves.
Once again, Hannah, a brilliant, well researched piece. I love the graphics that you generate and the sites you link to. Kudos. You are among our most important writers.
Good piece - it’s just a little sad that the message still needs repeating. Keep up the excellent work
Great topic, great newsletter. I will recommend this to my creation care and climate crisis networks.
How do hybrid vehicles compare?
I would like to see consideration of the emissions and waste generated by toxic solar panels and windmills. The cleanest, safest and most efficient source of zero carbon energy is 4th and 5th generation fission nuclear power such as molten salt reactors.
very interesting article but unfortunately the finance side of things does not addup if you are going from a second hand debt free ICE to a new EV.
The savings in fuel dont wipe out the debt repayments to actually buy the car.
I argue for those who read but don't post, John. The undecided. The interested.
Another good reason to eschew ad hominem. One doesn't want rudeness to put off the undecided.
Interesting article. I wonder about the energy mix numbers though. Here in the UK the National Grid is struggling to cope with the massive increase in renewables. Hundreds of thousands of households have given up waiting for the government and are installing PV arrays (ours is 4KWp).
Due to some arcane gents club agreements, however, we don't have the long distance cables to bring power from the Scottish offshore wind turbines down south where its needed, so we the tax payers are paying the wind farms NOT to produce power...
The price of our Electricity is financially linked to that of Gas, (part of the Gent's Club agreement), and is hammered with a "Green levy" to "accelerate the building of renewables".
Yes renewable power is hit with a tax to fund renewable power...
Even so, we regularly hear that renewables account for more than 50% of our production.
Thanks for the analysis, this is great. The next thing it causes me to wonder is how much we can decarbonize the battery manufacturing and where the lowest hanging fruit is there.
This is great. It would be interesting if you could do a follow up including plug in hybrids, while adding another comparison point- energy use to produce 1 EV vs x amount of hybrids