A report suggests electric vehicles are bigger polluters than internal combustion cars. What does this say about the design chain?
SAN FRANCISCO--Ammo for electric vehicle (EV) haters has emerged
in a report that argues that the ecological footprint of electric vehicles is
twice as bad as internal combustion engines.
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A Norwegian study, published
in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, finds that the
effort, materials and resources involved particularly with the
manufacture of EVs contributes to a higher global warming potential
We estimate the GWP from EV production to be 87 to 95
grams carbon dioxide equivalent per kilometer (g CO2-eq/km),
which is roughly twice the 43 g CO2-eq/km associated with ICEV
production. Battery production contributes 35% to 41% of the EV
production phase GWP, whereas the electric engine contributes 7%
to 8%. Other powertrain components, notably inverters and the
passive battery cooling system with their high aluminum content,
contribute 16% to 18% of the embodied GWP of EVs.
We find that EVs powered by the present European
electricity mix offer a 10% to 24% decrease in global warming
potential (GWP) relative to conventional diesel or gasoline
vehicles assuming lifetimes of 150,000 km. However, EVs exhibit
the potential for significant increases in human toxicity,
freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, and metal
depletion impacts, largely emanating from the vehicle supply
The report already has re-ignited the usually loud and always cantankerous debate over whether electric vehicle design is better for the
environment, more virtuous or simply cooler. But a key take-away from the report
is this line:
"(The finding) poses the question of how serious are
we about life cycle thinking, and how much control and oversight
we, customers, and policy makers believe should be exerted
across production chains.
We've expended a lot of effort and real and digital "ink" on the
issue of RoHS
in recent years. "RoHS-compliant" today is an almost mandatory
- To what extent is "design for environment"
baked into your organization, taking into consideration the the broader implications than toxic
metals in a landfill?
- Does your company have as one of its guiding principles a design-for-environment principle?
- Does it work and do you think it's necessary?
--ShaiAgassi ousted as CEO of Better Place
--Tesla's CEO: Half of cars will be electric in 15 years