Study Suggests Electric Cars Do Produce Lower Greenhouse Emissions Over Lifespan

Lisa Steuer McArdle
· 3 min read
A new study claims that
electric cars
produce far fewer greenhouse emissions throughout their lifespan than a
gas vehicle
The study was conducted by the
International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT)
, an independent nonprofit organization that says it provides unbiased research and technical and scientific analysis to environmental regulators.
This study looked at the entire lifecycle of the cars, from extracting and processing raw materials through the manufacture to their eventual disposal. Researchers also looked at four areas that together account for 70% of
new car
sales worldwide: the U.S., the E.U., China, and India.
Electric cars have gotten a bad rep for not being as green as people initially thought.

More about the electric car study

The study considered lifetime average carbon intensity of fuel and electricity mixes, and accounted for changes in the carbon intensity over vehicle lifetime given present energy policies.
According to researchers, the study also looked at real-world usage rather than relying on official test values to estimate fuel and electricity consumption.
They noted this is especially important in assessing GHG emissions of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. It uses the most recent data on industrial-scale battery production and considers regional supply chains, which results in significantly lower estimates of GHG emissions from battery production than other studies have found, according to the report.
Researchers also said it factors in the near-term global warming potential of methane leakage in natural gas and natural gas-derived hydrogen pathway.
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2021 electric cars and emissions

In addition to looking at different regions around the world, the study also considered
all relevant powertrain types, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and an array of fuel types including biofuels, electrofuels, hydrogen, and electricity.
The lifecycle GHG emissions of cars registered in 2021 are compared with those of cars expected to be registered in 2030, because researchers assumed a car would be on the road for about 18 years and used that figure in their assessment.
For cars registered in 2021, medium-sized electric vehicles in Europe have lifetime emissions that are between 66 and 69% lower than a gasoline-powered vehicle in the same category, according to the report.
In the U.S., the report indicates that electric vehicles produce between 60 and 68% fewer emissions while in China it’s between 37 and 45% fewer emissions. India sees emissions that are between 19 to 34% lower with electric vehicles.

Numbers in 2030

By 2030, the numbers get even higher.
By then, the report indicates that gasoline-powered cars in Europe produce 74 to 77% more emissions, 62 percent to 76% more in the U.S., 48 to 64% in China, and 30 to 56% more in India.
points out, researchers in the study note that the gap between the figures reflects the uncertainty around how the energy mix in each region develops.

Goals of the study

Researchers point out that one important result of the analysis is to show that lifecycle emissions trends are similar in all four regions—despite the differences among them in vehicle mix, grid mix and so on.
"Already for cars registered today, BEVs have better relative GHG emissions performance everywhere than conventional vehicles," said ICCT Deputy Director Rachel Muncrief, in a press release about the study.
Georg Bieker, the study's author, said the study aimed to capture the elements that policymakers in these major markets need to fairly and critically evaluate different technology pathways for passenger cars.

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