A new study has found out that battery electric vehicles have by far the lowest life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
The analysis conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation has analysed the European Union, the United States, China, and India, and captured the differences among those markets, which together account for about 70% of new car sales worldwide.
Only battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles powered by renewable electricity can achieve the kind of deep reductions in emissions from transportation that conform with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming well below 2 °C.
There is no realistic pathway to that goal that relies on combustion-engine vehicles, including hybrids of any sort, according to ICCT researcher and the study's author Georg Bieker.
“Our aim with this study was to capture the elements that policymakers in these major markets need to fairly and critically evaluate different technology pathways for passenger cars,” he said. “We know we need transformational change to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and the results show that certain technologies are going to be capable of delivering deep decarbonization and others are clearly not.”
The study methodology considers lifetime average carbon intensity of fuel and electricity mixes, and accounts for changes in the carbon intensity over vehicle lifetime given present energy policies. It also looks at real-world usage rather than relying on official test values to estimate fuel and electricity consumption; this is especially important in assessing emissions of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
Results show that emissions over the lifetime of average medium-size BEVs registered today are already lower than comparable gasoline cars by 66%–69% in Europe, 60%–68% in the United States, 37%–45% in China, and 19%–34% in India.
Peter Mock, ICCT’s managing director for Europe has pointed to the importance of the findings to the European Union’s recently proposed changes to its passenger car CO2 emission regulation.
“The results highlight the importance of grid decarbonization alongside vehicle electrification,” he said. “The life-cycle GHG performance of electric cars will improve as grids decarbonize, and regulations that promote electrification are crucial to capturing the future benefits of renewable energy.
The ICCT has recommended that the registration of new combustion engine vehicles should be phased out in the 2030–2035 timeframe. Given the average vehicle lifetimes of 15–18 years, only those technologies that can achieve a deep decarbonization of the global car fleet by 2050 should be produced and registered by about 2030–2035.
The study warned that BEVs powered by renewable electricity and FCEVs fuelled by green hydrogen are the only two technology pathways that qualify. Meanwhile, hybridization can be utilized to reduce the fuel consumption of new internal combustion engine vehicles registered over the next decade, but neither HEVs nor PHEVs provide the magnitude of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions needed in the long term.