A meta-analysis was recently published in the journal Sustainability on the emissions involved in producing battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and the number of kilometres it takes for a BEV to break even with fossil-fuel vehicles (diesel and petrol) in different European countries. Existing studies were reviewed in order to perform the analysis.
The difference is astounding. The key is the source(s) of electricity used in each country for making the batteries.
Although BEVs are simpler in structure and require less maintenance than fossil-fuel vehicles, they have slightly higher emissions than petrol and diesel vehicles in the manufacturing process. The scientists in this study performed life-cycle assessments of the production cycle and estimated the distances of intersection points (DIPs, measured in thousands of km) before a BEV breaks even with fossil fuel cars.
They discovered that BEVs had to be driven for 34,000 km in Iceland before they became more carbon-friendly than diesel cars, but in the UK they had to be driven for 244,000 km before they break even with diesel cars in terms of emissions. Together with Cyprus and Greece (309,000 and 312,700 km respectively), the cars would probably have reached the end of their lifetime before the break-even point is reached. It is assumed that a car’s lifetime is around 183,894 km, as in all the studies they reviewed this was the average distance driven over a vehicle’s physical lifetime.
In some countries (Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Malta) the situation is so bad that “BEVs would never intersect with the compared diesel vehicle at the current electric grid emission intensity due to the use-phase emissions of the BEV being higher than those of the diesel vehicle”. The authors attribute this to the energy mix in the country concerned: for instance, in Poland 80% of the electricity comes from coal. Besides Iceland, the other countries which come well out in this analysis are Norway, France and Sweden.
For petrol cars, the DIP is lower. Iceland still comes best out, with a DIP of 18.9. The figures are lower for all countries, with the same countries coming worst out.
For those who can read Icelandic, Fréttablaðið also reported on this, but to a lesser degree.
It would be interesting to see the same analysis done for hydrogen-fuelled cars and vehicles using methane as fuel. But especially in regard to hydrogen.