Saturday, December 9, 2023
HomeGreen TechnologyLifecycle Emissions of EVs & CO2: Debunking TED Discuss Video

Lifecycle Emissions of EVs & CO2: Debunking TED Discuss Video

By David Waterworth with Paul Wildman

Just lately, Paul Wildman, a well-educated good friend of mine who additionally occurs to personal a Tesla, occurred upon a TED speak. He was most involved that the automobile he had bought as a result of it was environmentally pleasant may need turned out to be the antithesis of that? So, was extra CO2 emitted producing this automobile than was saved by not utilizing fossil fuels?

My preliminary response was that the video was 2 years previous, and as such suffered from out-of-date info. The evaluation was additionally flawed, utilizing false assumptions. I suggested my good friend to do a little analysis on present information. This text is developed from the notes, primarily by way of Paul, that we made throughout our analysis to scope this query.

One other concern was that TED is a good supply, and the feedback beneath the video have been so adverse to EVs. It’s a fear that extremely smart folks could be duped. These feedback have been just like the reactions I’ve had from hardcore environmentalists who assist planting bushes vs shopping for an EV.

Does an EV emit much less CO2* than a ICE car in its respective annualised lifecycle**?

Key insights:

CO2 emissions from battery manufacturing and charging with “soiled” electrical energy is a factor, and an even bigger factor than we thought.

Affect of those findings on us? Paul’s Tesla EV will attain the payoff interval in 4 years! Alternatively, David drives 30,000 km per 12 months and would attain the break-even “inexperienced spot” a lot sooner. This compares with BEVs which require as much as 70,000 km to hit their “inexperienced spot,” one thing that ICE (inner combustion engine) automobiles by no means hit….

Whereas these findings do qualify the environmental credentials of an EV, they, ultimately, validate an EV in contrast with an ICE car, particularly if clear power is used to cost it and annual use is at the least 5,000 km.

On this quick article exploring the above query, we’re in truth one crucial facet of environmental accounting. Governments have to take action significantly better of their efforts to fight international warming. At the moment, there aren’t any nationwide or international requirements on calculating this.


EV sustainability in comparison with ICEV sustainability relies upon to a big extent on context. For instance, when you’re driving an electrical automobile within the US, be aware that fossil fuels accounted for 60% of the nation’s power manufacturing in 2021. In such an occasion, you’ll launch extra CO2 into the environment than when you’re driving it in Iceland, the place you launch 0%, as a result of the Icelandic grid runs virtually completely on hydro, geothermal, and photo voltaic power. The excellent news internationally is electrical energy grids are transferring quickly in direction of extra renewables.

The “elephant within the room” subject is the battery pack. EV car manufacturing (other than battery pack) has comparable environmental affect as an ICE automobile, after all, as does disposal. It’s the battery pack that could be a differentiator, and battery manufacturing releases CO2.


ICE automobiles make up about 3 quarters of the CO2 emissions within the transportation sector.

CO2 payoff for the lithium mining and manufacturing wanted for an EV relies upon completely on the ability supply for charging it, and the way a lot one drives. The everyday payoff interval is 8,000 km for us right here in Australia.

As a aspect be aware, ridesharing, robotaxis, and so on. present mutual help in lowering the overall fleet and thus carbon emissions.

One other factor to contemplate: Battery packs when 70% efficient for EVs are nonetheless capable of be reused as dwelling battery packs or recycled, with greater than 90% of the minerals being recovered. So, whereas there are notable emissions to provide batteries, down the street, these emissions could possibly be unfold throughout extra merchandise or makes use of. Good luck doing the calculus on that.

Going ahead, all automobile firms are making an effort to be as inexperienced as doable, utilizing renewable power and managing the battery recycling course of. Some, like Tesla, are even getting concerned in mining processes. Nonetheless, the FUD persists, and within the strangest locations. Regardless of what number of instances an argument is refuted, it nonetheless exists on the web.

Disclaimer: Clearly, the problem is a multi-layered and multi-focus one. This implies it’s straightforward to enter the dialogue in a method that justifies one’s prejudices (i.e., “EVs are crap” or “EVs will save the planet” or “it’s all too complicated and horrible for anybody to know something definitive about what the true story is”). We tried to be as goal as doable and took one important environmental accounting indicator, life-cycle CO2 emissions. Then we regarded on the analysis we might discover on this.


* Lifecycle contains extraction; manufacture, together with element extraction, processing, manufacture, and recycling (EPMR); use of electrical energy and petro-fuel (diesel and petroleum).

** Clearly, our query for this piece is “solely” about CO2, not about O3 air pollution and depletion of uncommon earths, and so on., and so on. Subsequently, the query is open to critique. Nonetheless, CO2 is a key pollutant inflicting international warming, and thus to our minds, justifies this centered inquiry.

Additionally see: Results of battery manufacturing on electrical car life-cycle greenhouse fuel emissions from the Worldwide Council on Clear Transportation.

For extra on our response to electrical car FUD, see right here.

Dr Paul Wildman is a retired crafter and educational. He was director of the Queensland Apprenticeship system for a number of years within the early Nineties and is passionate about demonstrating the significance of craft, peer-to-peer manufacturing, collaboration, and “our commons” in social, financial, and technological improvements comparable to EVs. Paul is lengthy on Tesla [TSLA] and making an attempt to show a fox terrier could be skilled. See Paul’s crafter podcasts right here.



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