Wrong Size Batteries Kill EV Eco Potential

Using batteries too big for purpose can make EV powertrains as polluting as internal combustion engines, a report considering the technology’s impact on the environment has claimed.

A study by Ricardo for the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) is highlighting the need for more knowledge of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in the area of road transport when assessing the real impact of technologies on global ecology. It claims that “as new types and technologies of vehicles enter the market place, with electrification heading towards the mainstream, the ability to assess emissions ‘beyond the tailpipe’ to provide the basis for better regulation and more effective policies, will become more and more important”. It adds that LCA is about taking a holistic approach to the analysis of a product’s total environmental impact.

Ricardo’s report claims that while current EVs can have less full-life wheel-to-wheel CO2 emissions than conventional internal combustion vehicles, assuming sustainable energy powers electricity supplies, over-large batteries can threaten these ‘green’ credentials. Ricardo’s statement read: “If a race for bigger and bigger batteries is left unchecked, EVs doing low mileages could undermine some of the potential benefits.”

It continued: “The environmental impacts associated with the production phase for road vehicles will become increasingly important in the context of the full life cycle and the focus of more policy attention as governments around the world strive to meet greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in order to tackle climate change.”

The study considered the life cycles of different sizes of vehicles finding that large heavy duty vehicles’ recorded up to 95% of their output from use because of their high mileage requirements. However, passenger and micro cars saw up to more than half of their output coming from the initial manufacturing stage.

The findings were presented by LowCVP’s managing director, Andy Eastlake at the LCV2018 Event being held at Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire in the UK. He said: “Many studies have looked at the environmental impacts of passenger cars but far less is known about the life cycle sensitivities of other road vehicles. This work helps provide the latest knowledge and framework and will inform future discussions to ensure that the UK has the most comprehensive understanding of the impacts and can focus on the best environmental solutions across all vehicle sectors.

“This work shows that vehicle electrification using ‘right-sized’ batteries should progress hand-in-hand with low carbon fuels and energy and production innovation, to deliver the biggest greenhouse gas savings across the whole road sector. Like total cost of ownership differences, the total life cycle impact of EVs needs the careful consideration and clear thinking highlighted by this report.”

You can Download the LCA report here.

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