EEA Reports Says Electric Cars Good For Climate & Air Quality


Surely it comes as no surprise to us, but we need to get more people to realize this.

Hopefully, everyone at least realizes at this point that electric vehicles don’t spew carbon emissions into the air that we breathe. But there has been much contention about the total life cycle emissions of EVs versus gas-powered cars, citing production emissions, and on and on. Early on, there may have been a small argument that the production of an all-electric vehicle, and the fact that the energy source for the electricity was simply coming from coal, produced an unhealthy level of emissions comparable to an ICE vehicle. But, that has quickly dissipated, and now, it’s becoming abundantly clear that EVs are the only real way to protect our air and combat climate change.

Battery-electric vehicles — and even plug-in hybrids, when used in the correct manner — can work to keep our air cleaner and reverse the impact of climate change. They emit less or even zero greenhouse gas and pollutants into our air. Several studies over time, and even many recent studies have proven this beyond any doubt. Now, a new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) further substantiates what we already knew.

An EEA report entitled “Electric vehicles from life cycle and circular economy perspectives” divulges details that were already known and established to be true among people that support EVs, but are still heavily discounted by the masses and naysayer organizations. According to the report (via Green Car Congress):

Across its life cycle, a typical electric car in Europe produces fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants compared with its gasoline or diesel equivalent, according to the report. Emissions are usually higher in the production phase of electric cars, but these are more than offset by lower emissions in the use phase over time.

Furthermore, the study shows that greenhouse gas emissions from electric car life cycles are some 17-30 percent less than that of ICE cars. Not only this, but they are decreasing exponentially, due to the EU energy production mix, which is also the case in a wealth of areas across the globe. The study states:

The largest potential reduction in GHG emissions between a BEV and an ICEV occurs in the in-use phase, which can more than offset the higher impact of the raw materials extraction and production phases. However, the extent to which the GHG emissions advantage is realised during the in-use stage of BEVs depends strongly on the electricity mix. BEVs charged with electricity generated from coal currently have higher life-cycle emissions than ICEVs, whereas the life-cycle emissions of a BEV could be almost 90% lower than an equivalent ICEV using electricity generated from wind power. In future, with greater use of lower carbon electricity in the European mix the typical GHG emissions saving of BEVs relative to ICEVs will increase.

While there is really no such thing as zero emissions, except via the vehicle’s tailpipe, the level of emissions is greatly reduced with an electric car. Sure, the tire and brake wear and tear dispels emissions, as does particulates thrown up from the roadway. But, these are issues that impact every vehicle. You can’t really argue that these impact EVs to a greater level, and you can’t really argue that electric cars still pollute due to these factors. The new report elaborates:

BEVS can offer local air quality benefits due to zero exhaust emissions, e.g., nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). However, BEVs still emit PM locally from road, tre and brake wear, as all motor vehicles do. For local PM emissions, there is a great deal of uncertainty and variation in the results, depending on the assumptions made around ICEV emissions and on the different estimation methods for non-exhaust emissions. In addition, electricity generation also produces emissions.

Here, the spatial location of emissions is important. Where power stations are located away from population centres, replacing ICEVs with BEVs is likely to lead to an improvement in urban air quality, even in contexts in which the total emissions of the latter may be greater. Under these circumstances, the contribution of power stations to regional background levels of air pollution, which also affect the air quality in cities, will probably be outweighed by a reduction in local emissions. As the proportion of renewable electricity increases and coal combustion decreases in the European electricity mix (EC, 2016) the advantage in terms of air quality of BEVs over ICEVS is likely to increase in tandem.

Follow the link below for additional details.

Source: Green Car Congress

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14 Comments on "EEA Reports Says Electric Cars Good For Climate & Air Quality"

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The brake emissions are also less on an EV or PHEV (even hybrids). My ’07 Escape Hybrid has 140k miles and I’ve still got the original brakes on it with plenty of pad left. No other car I’ve ever owned has come close to that. Regen reduces brake wear emissions.

The perfect answer to give to people that say: “but electric cars still produce fine powders from brakes and tires” 😀
Yes they do, but much less than ICE for this reason.
And also, an ICE veichle consumes and pollutes when is stopped too, an electric one doesn’t.

Hybrids don’t idle usually when stopped or at low speed, nor they use brake pads as much.

Another picture from the same study:

It is 24 kWh Leaf. Increase dark blue area 2-3 times for contemporary BEVs with much bigger batteries and what you will see?
Maybe if somebody wants to “save the world”, he or she should start from that copper mine in Africa, not from his/her gated neighborhood that is already perfectly clean in comparison.

My bicycle produces brake, tire and road emissions. So do my sneakers, or the bottoms of my feet for that matter! I do not think this is a particularly valid argument.

That chart doesn’t seem to make sense. Are they stating that electricity production has a higher toxicity score than gasoline? That is ridiculous on the face of it. 11% of European electricity is generated from renewables and 13% from nukes, with petroleum products still near the top of the list of electricity sources, so even with Germany’s use of coal, Europe isn’t that dirty.
European gasoline/petrol is pumped out of the middle east, refined, shipped 7,000 miles and then trucked to its fuel station, then burned in a car with a 30% efficiency if they are lucky. I just don’t see gas toxicity scores coming close to electricity. If they are that far off on the toxicity of the pack, why should we believe that the rest of the report isn’t similar trash?

Green house gases emitted at the power plants can be controlled much better when compared to the emissions at the vehicle level, which has not been taken into consideration in this article.

Now these,duh, EU EEA eco-geniuses need to ever-so amazingly “discover” that 2-stroke, 49cc mopeds and scooters are filthy, noisy, NOx and SOx-belching absurd anachronisms that should have been banned from Europe’s streets decades ago. And to help persuade younger people to shift from said stinking 2-strokes to ebikes, the maximum permitted licence-free ebike speed should also long ago have been increased to 20 mph as it is in the US and Canada. (= 32 kmh instead of 25kmh) Tragically and scandalously though, EU lawmakers and politicians still lack the cojones and credibility to stand up to the likes of Vespa/Piaggio and powerful 2-stroke industry lobbyists and trade associations who know all too well that faster 20 mph ebikes pose a very serious threat to the survival of their 49cc dinosaurian relic-tech. Even now, 21 years after the Kyoto Protocol and countless hot-air climate summits the EEA, politicians and bureaucrats refuse to do the right thing – and our media as always stays compliantly, feebly silent and thereby also ensures that the 2-stroke status quo continues largely unchallenged and unquestioned. My suggestion: give climate summit delegates a fleet of noisy, stinking 2-stroke scooters and mopeds to get around on during the… Read more »

Fans repost the same headline over multiple media outlets but don’t bother to go into report and read whole story what is in there. OK, trying copy-paste some for those who can read:
” Hawkins et al. (2013)
reported life-cycle GHG emissions from BEVs charged
using the average European electricity mix, 17-21 %
and 26-30 % lower than similar diesel and petrol
vehicles, respectively (detailed in Figure 6.1). ”

They compare 2013 Leaf and Mercedes A class (it is not sold in US, should be something like 30 mpg on EPA scale).

I also had high hopes in 2013. But what we have now?
We need to change 24 kWh Leaf to 50-100 kWh BEV as sold now. Some are going to offer 180 kWh green cars (color green that is). And we need to change 30 mpg guzzler to 52-58 mpg hybrid that are sold for little price premium, much smaller premium than BEV premium. And the picture gets drastically different, some 30-50% better for hybrid.

Germany kind of drags the European score down due to its huge reliance on brown coal. Estonia is worse but much smaller so it doesn’t make as much of a difference. They should do what Poland is doing and start to import more LNG from the US.

in other news, the sky is blue!

Better yet, ride a bicycle!

All this counter-points focusing on life cycle emissions of EVs are missing the bigger picture. Even if we go very aggressive on EV adaption it will be at least a couple of decades before most vehicles on the road are EVs. The grid will be lot cleaner by then due to simple economics.

The biggest problem with those who claimed batteries are dirty has to do with flawed assumptions on battery emissions. Particularly, they assumed EV batteries are made in China. But most EV battery cells are not made in China.

As shown, batteries made in US for example can be as low as 30-50 kg of co2e/kwh. So even a 100kwh battery would only be 3-5 tons co2/kwh.

In comparison, a gas car emissions according to the EPA is 4.67 tons per year.

Aka, an EV with a battery made in the US breaks even on the battery part in just 1 year! And this is on a large 100kwh battery!

This is why Musk is selling powerwalls and solar panels in addition to Teslas. There isn’t “a” solution out there right now, so we have to make the most of everything available. Solar, wind, EV’s and hybrids, mass transit. I’ve had both Nissan Leaf’s and Chevy Volts, and I essentially charge them from my solar panels. It is disheartening that GM is killing off the Volt, which is perhaps the perfect transition car to a fully EV future. I almost never use up my available electric battery power in the Volt for around town driving. It is only on longer trips that the car eventually turns on the small gas engine to charge the batteries. And even then I’m getting over 40mpg.