The use of electric vehicles (EVs) has received close scrutiny, especially about its perceived environmental benefits. The production of EVs does involve certain practices that emit greenhouse gases. There’s also the extraction and use of rare minerals such as lithium. The latter is one of the concerns cited in manufacturing electric cars as batteries require lithium and other minerals whose sourcing taxes the environment. A new study from the Yale School of the Environment published in Nature Communications is revealing that despite the emissions generated while producing an EV, the longterm effects are benign.
According to the Yale study, it would take a number of years before the use of the EV offsets the emissions generated while it was produced. The calculations revealed that the year would be 2035.
A major concern about electric vehicles is that the supply chain, including the mining and processing of raw materials and the manufacturing of batteries, is far from clean.Ken Gillingham, an economics professor at the YSE
The study combined integrated energy modeling and life cycle assessment to compare optimal policy scenarios that price emissions at the tailpipe only, versus both tailpipe and indirect emissions. Scenarios that also price indirect emissions exhibit higher, rather than reduced, sales of electric vehicles, while yielding lower cumulative exhaust and indirect emissions. Expected technological change ensures that emissions from electricity and battery production are more than offset by reduced emissions of gasoline production.
“If we priced the carbon embodied in these processes, the expectation is electric vehicles would be exorbitantly expensive. It turns out that’s not the case; if you level the playing field by also pricing the carbon in the fossil fuel [non-electric] vehicle supply chain, electric vehicle sales would actually increase,” said Ken Gillingham.
Given the continued decarbonization of electricity supply, the results show that a large–scale adoption of electric vehicles is able to reduce CO2 emissions through more channels than previously expected. Further, carbon pricing of stationary sources will also favor electric vehicles. The study also found that a large–scale adoption of electric vehicles is able to reduce CO2 emissions through more channels than previously expected.
Electric vehicles typically have a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline cars, even when accounting for the electricity used for charging. Electric vehicles (EVs) have no tailpipe emissions. Generating the electricity used to charge EVs, however, may create carbon pollution. The amount varies widely based on how local power is generated, e.g., using coal or natural gas, which emit carbon pollution, versus renewable resources like wind or solar, which do not.
Even accounting for these electricity emissions, research shows that an EV is typically responsible for lower levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) than an average new gasoline car. To the extent that more renewable energy sources like wind and solar are used to generate electricity, the total GHGs associated with EVs could be even lower.
The Matador Network reports that in a survey of US voters in 2021, 55 percent supported a mandate that all cars be electric by 2030. That number is likely to rise long before the end of this decade as EV technology improves and prices continue to drop.