The lifetime emissions of an electric car versus a gasoline vehicle have become a hotly debated topic for governments. A new study which compares the climate impact of passenger cars could play a central role in the argument. The report claims that electric cars produce significantly less “cradle-to-grave” greenhouse gas emissions than their gas-guzzling counterparts. According to the study, the primary result is the same globally, even when applied to countries like China and India, where the majority of the electricity to charge an EV comes from coal.
The results are a rebuke to voices from the automotive and oil lobbying sectors who still claim that electric cars are no cleaner than gasoline vehicles. Sometimes governments try to cement their environmental policies in line with the Paris Agreement. Finalized in 2015, the climate change deal saw 143 countries, including the United States, agree to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius. To help achieve that goal, Washington state and California have proposed banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars from 2030 and 2035, respectively.
The study conducted by the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) looked at the entire life cycle of electric vehicles and gasoline-powered cars, from raw material extraction through production to final disposal. Researchers looked at greenhouse gas emissions from types of vehicles and fuels in four territories that together account for 70% of new car sales globally: the US, EU, China, and China. India.
For cars registered in 2021, the report found that the lifetime emissions of a mid-size electric vehicle in Europe are between 66 and 69% lower than that of a gasoline vehicle of the same class. In the United States, an electric vehicle produces between 60 and 68% less emissions. In China, an electric vehicle generates between 37 and 45% less emissions. In India, it is between 19 and 34 percent lower.
By 2030, the gap between electric vehicles and heavy gasoline consumers is expected to decrease from 74% to 77% in Europe, from 62% to 76% in the United States, from 48% to 64% in China and from 30% to 56% in India.
Notably, the researchers assume that a vehicle will be on the road for about 18 years. They also specify that the difference between the figures reflects the uncertainty about the evolution of the energy mix of each region, itself linked to future policies.
“One of the important results of the analysis is to show that the emission trends over the life cycle are similar in the four regions, despite the differences between them in the composition of vehicles, the composition of the network, etc. Already for cars registered today, [battery electric vehicles] have a better parent [greenhouse gas] emissions performance everywhere compared to conventional vehicles, ”said Rachel Muncrief, Deputy Director of ICCT.
There are still caveats, however. Although electric vehicles reduce carbon emissions over time, they inevitably have a negative impact on the environment. By a recent estimate, you’ll have to drive a new electric vehicle for thirteen and a half miles before doing less harm than a gas guzzling sedan.
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