BEVs Costing UK More CO2 Production Than ICE

Vehicle emissions specialist Emissions Analytics is the latest large organization to call for governments not to rule out ICE powertrains in the drive for climate control.

Its latest statement has redoubled its call for a mass program of hybrid technology adoption to help the transition to sustainable electric vehicles. It highlights the persisting problem of carmakers not being able to accurately predict the lifecycle of a BEV’s battery pack and this threatens their ability to prove that BEV technology is the best way to achieve ambitious climate change goals. This is just the latest automotive organization to question bans on ICE technology, due to come in force in the UK market from as early as 2030.

Emissions Analytics’s newsletter points out that: “Almost two-thirds, typically, of CO2 emissions in the manufacture of a BEV are associated with the battery, including sourcing raw materials.  For an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, even a mildly hybridized one, that fraction is less than 5%.  Therefore, the life expectancy of the BEV battery pack is clearly crucial to the vehicle’s overall CO2 footprint – and residual valuation – in a way that is not true for primarily combustion cars.”

It says the lifecycle of a battery significantly affects the model of how much an impact on reducing CO2 will have with a BEV dominant manufacturing strategy. For example, if the batteries “last on average as long as the chassis – 14 years – then by 2050 the BEV transition scenario would deliver 13% points more CO2 reduction than with eight-year battery life, a figure that rises to 16% points by 2070…”

Its report continues: “In a pessimistic scenario where batteries only last on average of six years – which would be costly both in terms of CO2 and to the underwriters of manufacturer warranties – the Hybrid strategy would be 10% better in 2050 than the BEV transition, and still be better, by 6%, in 2070, as the constant renewing of batteries outweighed the lower in-use emissions of BEVs.  This is not a likely scenario but makes plain the sensitivity of our decarbonization policy to a complex and opaque piece of engineering produced by the private sector.”

BEVs creating more CO2

To hammer home its point over CO2 produced by committing to an aggressive BEV policy, it highlights the UK’s automotive output since 2020 comparing it to alternative scenarios that were dominated either by hybrid or ICE technology. “The early moves by the UK into BEVs has currently led to more CO2 emissions than on both these alternative scenarios. The 3.3 million vehicles sold in the UK since January 2020 emitted in total 6.153 megatonnes more CO2 than would have been the case if all vehicles sold had been full hybrids, which typically have batteries between 1.5 and 5.0 kWh in capacity, and 2.360 megatonnes more than if all vehicles had an ICE.  This is not surprising as BEVs – with batteries typically between 60 and 100 kWh – have much higher emissions from the manufacture, which is then offset by lower emissions during use.  This makes plain that calling BEVs ‘zero emission’, solely because they have no tailpipe, is a nonsense.  The surplus CO2 is even greater compared to a market made up only of FHEVs [full hybrid electric vehicles], because they have manufacturing emissions only slightly higher than ICE vehicles but around 30% lower in-use emissions.”

It concludes that governments and automakers alike should be focused more on the longevity of BEV battery life than on the share of the overall market that BEVs should occupy. It said: “After all, the aim is surely to reduce CO2 emissions and slow global warming, rather than to promote BEVs as inherently better products – if they were so superior, they would not require subsidy at all.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_


5 comments

  1. Avatar Mike K 8th February 2022 @ 10:13 am

    1) it’s just words! Show us figures, how BEV emissions are calculated? 2) ICE CO2 footprint considers only tailpipe emissions? What about fuel production CO2 footprint? The author is comparing apples to plums and makes bold statements! It’s just a hype!

    • TU-Editor TU-Editor 8th February 2022 @ 12:40 pm

      For more details on Emissions Analytics’ data see its website: https://www.emissionsanalytics.com/
      The point is even Volvo admits building its own BEVs produces significantly more CO2 than making the ICE equivalents: https://www.tu-auto.com/volvo-admits-bevs-need-clean-energy-investment-to-be-green/
      It is placing its faith in BEVs having a long lifespan but, so far, no-one is certain what that will be, so putting all the industry’s climate change eggs in the BEV basket could be seen as a high risk strategy.

    • Avatar Chris 8th February 2022 @ 7:06 pm

      Mike, that is also not comparing two like items. If you want to compare the green house gas emissions of fuel production and use for ICE vehicles you would also have to do the same for BEV’s. Here in the US 60% of our energy comes from fossil fuels with the majority of the remainder from Hydro and Nuclear. That 60% also takes some fuel and energy use to produce. So even after production a BEV is Not 0 emission because the grid is not. This analysis would be more in line with what you are thinking versus the story above on the CO2 levels inherently produced in the production of the vehicles.

  2. Avatar Mac Murayama 9th February 2022 @ 2:35 am

    The problem is that energy consumption on the earth is increasing, warming the earth. The problem of global warming gas is less than that. Nuclear power generation, wind power generation, and solar power generation, especially solar power generation, are causing a decrease in the number of plants on the surface of the earth. Developed countries are only doing good things first.

  3. Avatar Jonas 25th April 2022 @ 7:58 am

    A little side note on battery lifetime and LCA in other places. Just got past the 110,000km mark in my Kia eNiro -19. Living in Sweden, way up north, where winters can freeze even the hottest Swede 😉 (below -30C), no problem with heat inside the car but the range goes from 420km to 220km when sub -30C (I have my car outside year around). No degradation on the battery yet and, since I live in northern Sweden, only fossil free electricity. Soon we have production (Northvolt) and recycling (Revolt) of batteries in my home town, then the LCA of BEV have to be recalculated.

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