For battery electric vehicles to provide a climate change mitigation alternative to traditional fuel vehicles, they must have lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. The battery electric vehicles production phase is more carbon‑intensive than that of traditional vehicles, but battery electric vehicles can compensate for the higher production emissions through lower use phase emissions. These are the results of a new EU report.
The carbon intensity of the electricity consumed in the operation phase greatly influences the advantages – or disadvantages – of adopting battery electric vehicles. Charging battery electric vehicles with electricity from renewable energy sources offers significantly lower lifecycle emissions compared to traditional vehicles. In contrast battery electric vehicles charged using coal-based electricity yields higher lifecycle emissions.
Smaller is better
Regardless of powertrain configuration, smaller vehicles tend to be more energy efficient during operation and generally have lower GHG emissions than larger ones. The trend towards increasing the size and range of battery electric vehicles is unfavourable from both a climate mitigation and resource use perspective. Thus, given the current state of the technology, striking the right balance between battery and vehicle size and charging infrastructure is important in maximising the climate change mitigation potential of battery electric vehicles.
The climate benefit of battery electric vehicles is expected to increase in the near future due to changes in the European power sector and developments within cell manufacturing. The expected decarbonisation of the European power sector should lead to an increase in the environmental benefits of battery electric vehicles use over time, particularly from a climate change perspective. Decarbonisation of the electricity mix in cell-manufacturing countries would, furthermore, be beneficial in terms of the battery production process.
Achieving the goal of more sustainable transport solutions requires good environmental understanding of technologies. Battery producers and recyclers have to be more transparent about the environmental implications of their product lines. An open channel of communication between industry, government and researchers is essential if battery electric vehicles are to succeed as a climate change mitigation initiative within the transport sector.
Read the report here.