Sunday, January 1, 2023

Do Electric Vehicles Create More Carbon Emissions over their lifetime than gasoline vehicles?


Do electric vehicles create more carbon emissions

over their lifetime than gasoline vehicles?

Over the years I have had many people say things to me like "Electric cars are worse for the environment than gasoline vehicles because Electric car manufacturing uses much more carbon than gasoline powered cars do".

Specifically, they say "The environmental impact of the battery manufacturing process is a nightmare as it utilizes much greater amounts of carbon emissions than are required for making a gas powered vehicle."

This has never made much sense to me, but as usual, I decided to do a deep dive to separate-the-fact-from-the-ficiton once and for all.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published an article titled "Electric Vehicle Myths", in which they attempt to address false narrative myths that have been perpetuated.

In their article, the first myth they attempt to dispel is put forth as: 

Myth #1: Electric vehicles are worse for the climate than gasoline cars because of the power plant emissions.

The EPA concludes:

• FACT: 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. (In 2020, renewables became the second-most prevalent U.S. electricity source.) 

Learn more about electricity production in your area by visiting EPA’s Power Profiler interactive web page. By simply inputting your zip code, you can find the energy mix in your region.

EPA and Department of Energy's (DOE’s) Beyond Tailpipe Emissions Calculator can help you estimate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with charging and driving an EV or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) where you live. You can select an EV or PHEV model and type in your zip code to see the CO2 emissions and how they stack up against those associated with a gasoline car.

My understanding it the EPA is arguing that in the United States, there has been a trend whereby we have been quickly increasing the amount of renewable sources of electricity, which is a trend likely to continue into the future.

This next issue addressed by the ETA represents the argument I hear most from people who argue the manufacturing process for electric cars is much worse for the environment than for manufacturing gas vehicles due to the environmental impact of battery manufacturing. 

Myth #2: Electric vehicles are worse for the climate than gasoline cars because of battery manufacturing.

The EPA puts forth the following analysis:

• FACT: The greenhouse gas emissions associated with an electric vehicle over its lifetime are typically lower than those from an average gasoline-powered vehicle, even when accounting for manufacturing.

Some studies have shown that making a typical EV can create more carbon pollution than making a gasoline car. This is because of the additional energy required to manufacture an EV’s battery. Still, over the lifetime of the vehicle, total GHG emissions associated with manufacturing, charging, and driving an EV are typically lower than the total GHGs associated with a gasoline car. That’s because EVs have zero tailpipe emissions and are typically responsible for significantly fewer GHGs during operation (see Myth 1 above).

For example, researchers at Argonne National Laboratory estimated emissions for both a gasoline car and an EV with a 300-mile electric range. In their estimates, while GHG emissions from EV manufacturing and end-of-life are higher (shown in orange below), total GHGs for the EV are still lower than those for the gasoline car.

Greenhouse Gas Pollutant Lifecycle 

Electric Vehicle v. Gasoline Car

Source: United States Environmental Protection (EPA) Agency Report titled, "Electric Vehicle Myths".

The information put forth by the EPA radically refutes the argument that says electric vehicle manufacturing is way worse for the environment than gasoline powered car manufacturing. 

The way I see it is that Electric Vehicle manufacturing is much healthier for the environment in the short and long-term, and here is why:

First of all, the process of gasoline will ONLY every be what it is today, and will not be offset more in the future by renewables. Same with Coal burning which is an environmental nightmare.

Clean renewables are clearly the future, whether they are nuclear, hydroelectric, solar or wind powered. As time goes by, I believe renewable will increase.

There is a great deal of disruptive innovation occurring in the space of battery recycling. The leader in this space is no other than Tesla co-founder, J.B. Straubel of Nevada-based Redwood Industries.


I have two friends that I have know for decades that have argued in the past with me about this subject and I reached out to both of them to allow they to offer their counterpoint arguments.

My first friend from college named Dave said:

"To start there are not enough minerals in the entire planet to create batteries if everyone owned an EV let alone needing to replace them over time."

I think David has a bit of a scarcity mentality, and is not aware of all the many different types of battery chemistry that exist, ranging from Lithium Nickel Cobalt Oxide Ion (NCA) batteries, to Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP), and Nickel Manganese and Cobalt (NMC) chemistry batteries.

Most importantly, I don't think he is aware of the new disruptive technology that is creating a closed-loop that essentially makes batteries close to 100% recyclable. Not to mention, with Tesla's new 4680 battery technology, it will allow cars to have a million mile battery life, which has deeply profound longevity benefits.

Also, if Tesla succeeds with creating their autonomous ride sharing network, this will reduce the size of the fleet as most people won't need to own and maintain their own vehicles. This technology will have may profound benefits, including the elimination or need for many public parking spaces.

My second friend I have known since 1st grade named Billy said:

"First off climate—or whatever you wanna call it—is BS in my opinion. If the government tells us there's a problem I’m a believer it’s the complete opposite of what they tell us.

It’s not what these cars do while driving and upkeep. It’s how they’re made which is mainly machines/equivalent that use fossil fuel. 

They know how to spin it real good. We grew up taking electric buses so why now? Get a new generation to believe this is important which creates organizations that get government funding. It’s a racket.."


For anybody who thinks Electric vehicles are worse for the environment, I would encourage them to fire up a gas car in a garage and they will almost immediately smell the highly toxic output versus having an electric vehicle which has zero emissions. Also, it is a fact that Tesla vehicles are at least 4 times more efficient than gasoline cars, thus they waste far less fuel.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that it amazes me how many people speak poorly about Tesla, when most of them have never even driven one, and certainly have never owned one. In other words, I believe in order to make a truly informed decision, I believe you have to live day in and day out with both, otherwise you are just speculating and spewing misinformed conjecture.

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