With fossil fuels driving the climate crisis, the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) has obvious benefits for the environment. With that said, there are still people who claim that’s not the case, arguing that the energy used to make the batteries, plus the emissions associated with producing electricity, make the total footprint of EVs more polluting than that of gas-guzzling cars.
That argument, however, has just been put to rest by a new study whose findings show that over the life cycle of an EV — from mining the materials needed to build it to the end of its life — it will release fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a gas-powered car. Those findings hold true globally, whether an EV recharges from a grid in Europe with a larger share of green power or a grid in India that is still heavily reliant on coal.
While the study results shouldn’t come as a surprise, it was carried out to debunk the long-standing myth that EVs are only as clean as the grids they run on — which are now still primarily based on fossil fuels in most parts of the world.
“We have a lot of lobby work from parts of the automotive industry saying that electric vehicles are not that much better if you take into account the electricity production and the battery production. We wanted to look into this and see whether these arguments are true,” says Georg Bieker, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the research group behind the report.
As part of the study, the researchers estimated the emissions from medium-sized EVs registered in 2021 in either India, China, the US, or Europe — countries that makeup 70 percent of new car sales globally.
The findings show that lifetime emissions for an EV in Europe are between 66 and 69 percent lower compared to that of a gas-powered car. In the US, an EV is responsible for between 60 to 68 percent fewer emissions. EVs in China, which uses more coal, produce between 37 to 45 percent fewer emissions, and that number is between 19 to 34 percent in India.
The authors of the ICCT report hope that their findings will help policymakers make more informed decisions about making the future of transportation more sustainable.