Electric and hybrid cars create more carbon emissions during their production than combustion cars-but are still greener overall, according to a new report from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (Low CVP).
The report highlights the importance of accounting for whole life carbon emissions to assess the true green credentials of low carbon cars. The report, prepared by Ricardo in collaboration with the partnership’s expert membership which includes major manufacturers and oil companies.
The study found that some of the CO2 savings made during the use of low carbon vehicles is offset by increased emissions created during their production, and to a lesser extent disposal. However, overall electric and hybrid vehicles still have lower carbon footprints than normal cars.
For example, a typical medium sized family car will create around 24 tonnes of CO2 during its life cycle, while an electric vehicle (EV) will produce around 18 tonnes over its life. For a battery EV, 46 per cent of its total carbon footprint is generated at the factory, before it has travelled a single mile.
Greg Archer, LowCVP Managing Director, said: "This work dispels the myth that low carbon vehicles simply displace emissions from the exhaust to other sources. However, it does highlight the need to look at reducing carbon emissions from vehicles throughout their lifecycle.”
For a standard mid-sized gasoline ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle the embedded carbon in production will be around 5.6tCO2e, around three quarters of which is the steel in the vehicle glider. This highlights the importance of deploying low weight, low carbon alternatives to current steels in the ultra-low carbon vehicles of the future. A similar electric vehicle will have embedded production emissions of 8.8tCO2e, 43 per cent of which arise from the battery. Decarbonising both electricity supply, through renewables; and the production of batteries will therefore be essential for electric vehicles to deliver ultra-low carbon lifetime emissions.
The report also highlights that some regulations designed to improve recyclability, safety or reduce air pollution can increase carbon emissions in production or use.