Analysis: When do electric vehicles get cleaner than gasoline-powered cars?
DETROIT, June 29 (Reuters) – You silently walk out of the Tesla Showroom (TSLA.O) in your sleek new electric Model 3, content to look great and do your part for the planet.
But keep going, you’ll have to travel another 21,725 km (13,500 miles) before it harms the environment less than a gas-guzzling sedan.
This is the result of a Reuters analysis of data from a model that calculates lifetime vehicle emissions, a hotly debated issue that is taking center stage as governments around the world push for greener transportation. in order to achieve climate goals.
The model was developed by the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago and includes thousands of parameters ranging from the type of metals in an electric vehicle (EV) battery to the amount of aluminum or plastic in a car.
Argonne’s Greenhouse Gas, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) model is now being used with other tools to help shape U.S. Agency policies. Environmental Protection (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board, the two primary regulators of vehicle emissions in the United States.
Jarod Cory Kelly, senior energy systems analyst at Argonne, said electric vehicle manufacturing generates more carbon than combustion engine cars, mainly due to the extraction and processing of minerals in electric vehicle batteries. and the production of power cells.
But estimates of the size of that carbon gap when a car is first sold and the break-even point for electric vehicles over their lifetimes can vary widely, depending on the assumptions.
Kelly said the payback period then depended on factors such as the size of the electric vehicle’s battery, the fuel economy of a gasoline-powered car, and how the power used to charge an electric vehicle is generated.
NORWAY IS A WINNER
Reuters connected a series of variables to the Argonne model, which had more than 43,000 users in 2021, to find answers.
The Tesla Scenario 3 above was for driving in the United States, where 23% of the electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, with a 54 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery and a nickel, cobalt, and aluminum cathode, among other variables. .
That was against a gasoline Toyota Corolla weighing 2,955 pounds with a fuel efficiency rating of 33 miles per gallon. Both vehicles were assumed to travel 173,151 miles in their lifetime.
But if the same Tesla were to be driven in Norway, which generates almost all of its electricity from renewable hydropower, the breakeven point would come after just 8,400 miles.
If the electricity to charge the EV comes entirely from coal, which generates the majority of electricity in countries like China and Poland, it would take 78,700 miles to reach carbon parity with the Corolla, according to the analysis. Reuters data generated. by the Argonne model.
Reuters analysis showed that the production of a midsize EV sedan generates 47 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile during the mining and production process, or more than 8.1 million grams before. reach the first customer.
In comparison, a similar gasoline vehicle generates 32 grams per mile, or over 5.5 million grams.
Michael Wang, senior scientist and director of the Systems Assessment Center in Argonne’s Energy Systems Division, said electric vehicles then typically emit significantly less carbon over a 12-year lifespan.
Even in the worst-case scenario where an electric vehicle is charged only from a coal-fired grid, it would generate an additional 4.1 million grams of carbon per year, while a comparable gasoline car would produce more than 4, 6 million grams, Reuters analysis showed.
“WELL ON THE WHEEL”
The EPA told Reuters it is using GREET to help assess standards for renewable fuels and vehicle greenhouse gases, while the California Air Resources Board is using the model to help assess compliance with the state low carbon fuel standard.
The EPA said it has also used Argonne’s GREET to develop an online program that allows US consumers to estimate emissions from electric vehicles based on the fuels used to generate electricity in their region.
The results of the Reuters analysis are similar to those of a lifecycle assessment of electric and combustion engine vehicles in Europe by the IHS Markit research group.
Its “well-to-wheel” study showed that the typical carbon emission break-even point for electric vehicles was around 15,000 to 20,000 miles, depending on the country, according to Vijay Subramanian, global director of compliance. carbon dioxide (CO2) at IHS Markit.
He said using such an approach showed the shift to electric vehicles had long-term benefits.
Some are less positive about EVs.
University of Liège researcher Damien Ernst said in 2019 that a typical electric vehicle would have to travel nearly 700,000 km before emitting less CO2 than a comparable gasoline vehicle. He then revised his numbers down.
Now he estimates that the breakeven point could be between 67,000 km and 151,000 km. Ernst told Reuters he did not intend to change these results, which were based on a different set of data and assumptions than the Argonne model.
Some other groups also continue to argue that electric vehicles are not necessarily cleaner or greener than fossil-fueled cars.
The American Petroleum Institute, which represents more than 600 companies in the petroleum industry, says on its website: “Multiple studies show that, on a lifecycle basis, different automotive powertrains cause greenhouse gas emissions. similar greenhouse.
The Argonne National Laboratory is funded by the US Department of Energy and operated by the University of Chicago.
Report by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by David Clarke
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