The Energy and Emissions Case and the Lifecycle Impact of Electric Cars
Electrifying Mobility: Realising a Sustainable Future for the Car
ISBN: 978-1-83982-635-1, eISBN: 978-1-83982-634-4
Publication date: 17 October 2022
Electric cars represent the most energy efficient technical option available for passenger cars, compared to conventional combustion engine cars and vehicles based on fuel cells. However, this requires an efficient charging infrastructure and low carbon electricity production as well. Combustion engine cars which were converted to electric cars decreased lifecycle CO2-equivalent emissions per passenger-km travelled down to one third of before, when powered by green electricity. However, through an analysis of 78 scientific reports published since 2010 for life cycle impacts from 18 aggregated impact categories, this chapter finds that the results are mixed. Taken together, however, the reduced environmental impacts of electric cars appear advantageous over combustion engine cars, with further room for improvement as impacts generated during the production phase are addressed. When it comes to battery components, Cobalt (Co) stands out as critical. Assessing the impact of electric cars on the local air quality, they are not ‘zero emission vehicles’. They emit fine dust due to tyre and brake abrasion and to dust resuspension from the street. These remaining emissions could be easily removed by adding an active filtration system to the undercarriage of electric vehicles. If electric cars are operated with electricity from fossil power plants nearby, the emissions of these plants need to be modelled with respect to possibly worsening the local air quality.
The author likes to thank Karsten Swarat very much for his comments on the chapter.
Helmers, E. (2022), "The Energy and Emissions Case and the Lifecycle Impact of Electric Cars", Parkhurst, G. and Clayton, W. (Ed.) Electrifying Mobility: Realising a Sustainable Future for the Car (Transport and Sustainability, Vol. 15), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 33-50. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2044-994120220000015005
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