In recent years, electric vehicles (EVs) have been portrayed as the solution. But is it better for the climate or is it all just media hype?
EVs carbon footprints in production
The production of an EV has more carbon emissions than an internal combustion engine (ICE) car. It goes through almost the same process except for the additional production of lithium-ion batteries for EVs.
Lithium is a mineral, and its mining process includes the burning of fossil fuels to extract lithium for underground brine reservoirs. The global lithium annual production raised to almost 100,000 metric tons in 2021, whereas each ton of lithium emits 15 tons of CO2. That makes greenhouse gas emissions of EV production almost double that of an ICE car.
Another problem with EVs is the source of power to charge. Are the whole charging stations generating power from renewable sources? In the US, renewable energy accounts for 20% of total power generation. Therefore, there’s an 80% chance that the energy for an EV comes from coal or gas-powered plants. That makes the whole renewable concept behind EVs questionable.
“.@SenSchumer's electric vehicle proposal is a creative and sound approach that would have a significant impact on America’s greenhouse gas emission crisis.” via @StevenACohen https://t.co/gMlaNR2e2n pic.twitter.com/kUKSHJkbCW
— Columbia Climate School (@columbiaclimate) October 30, 2019
EVs have fewer carbon footprints in a complete lifecycle
As EVs require battery power, ICE cars require gasoline from crude oil extraction. Worldwide, oil production amounts to 90 million barrels per day, whereas almost 45% of it is gasoline. That much crude oil extraction and refining process leaves an abundance of carbon footprints, and here we are talking about billions of metric tons annually.
In terms of figuring out whether EVs are better for the climate or not, we need to calculate the lifecycle carbon emissions of EVs and ICE cars. Production-wise, an average ICE car has almost half of the carbon footprints as that of EVs. In the long run, if an EV gets charged from a renewable power source, it has no CO2 emissions, whereas an average ICE car has 4.6 metric tons of CO emission per year, let alone the process behind oil extraction and refining.
Even if an EV charges on fossil-fueled power, it has more than double the efficiency of an ICE car. Summing it up whole, even the worst EV has half of the lifecycle carbon footprints as an efficient ICE car, which makes EVs better for the climate.