How Do Electric Car LIfecycle Emissions Compare to Gasoline Cars?

In the three stages of any car's lifecycle, it is during the production stage that an electric car generates more emissions and over its lifecycle it will be far less than ICE-age models.

Published: 16-Jan-2014

L. Engle of Pocatello, Idaho, asks "Are the lifecycle carbon emissions from a typical electric vehicle greater than that of a comparable conventional gasoline-powered vehicle?" and is answered by Dr. Rachael Nealer, a Kendall Fellow in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Vehicles Program.

This can be a tricky question to answer given there are so many variables, but current research says that the lifecycle emissions from an EV are lower than that of a comparable gasoline vehicle. When modeling each of the vehicles’ impacts, studies assume the vehicles share common components: same chassis, same body, same interior. The main difference between an EV and a conventional vehicle is the EV stores energy from the electric grid in a battery and uses it instead of burning gasoline.

The first stage of a vehicle’s lifecycle includes extracting and fabricating the materials that make up the vehicle, transporting those materials to the factory, and then manufacturing and assembling it. The biggest difference when comparing EVs with conventional vehicles are the processes associated with manufacturing the EV’s battery. Because of the additional global warming emissions released while producing, assembling, and installing an EV battery, the EV is responsible for more pollution than a conventional vehicle when it reaches the dealership, as long as the electricity source for production is the same for both, say a coal- or natural gas-fired power plant.

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