Study: Electrics, hybrids have lower carbon footprints than conventional vehicles

Who's ready for more data to bring to the next "long tailpipe" argument? Here you go: Electric and hybrid vehicles generate more carbon emissions than conventional vehicles during the manufacturing process, but still have a smaller carbon footprint overall, according to a report prepared by Ricardo for the UK's Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership.

For example, the report indicates that a typical mid-size family sedan generates approximately 24 tons of CO2 during its entire life cycle. Meanwhile, Ricardo claims that an electric vehicle creates about 19 tons of CO2 over its lifespan, with 46 percent of its total carbon footprint generated at the factory before the vehicle has even rolled off the assembly line.

Greg Archer, LowCVP managing director, sums up the significance of Ricardo's findings like this:

This work dispels the myth that low-carbon vehicles simply displace emissions from the exhaust to other sources. However, it does highlight the need to look at reducing carbon emissions from vehicles throughout their life cycle. The automotive industry is already taking positive steps to address this issue.

The report will be released as part of the 2011 LowCVP Conference on June 9th, and we'll have to dig into the details to see exactly how these numbers were calculated. For more info related to this study, check out LowCVP's press release posted after the jump.

[Source: LowCVP]
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LowCVP study demonstrates the increasing importance of measuring whole life carbon emissions to compare vehicle performance

ELECTRIC and hybrid cars create more carbon emissions during their production than standard vehicles – but are still greener overall, according to a new report.

The report highlights the increasing importance of accounting for whole life carbon emissions to compare the greenhouse gas emissions of low carbon vehicles. The report was prepared by Ricardo1

The study found that some of the CO2 savings made during the use of low carbon vehicles is offset by increased emissions created during their production, and to a lesser extent disposal. However, overall electric and hybrid vehicles still have lower carbon footprints than normal cars. for, and in collaboration with, the expert membership of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership that includes major vehicle manufacturers and oil companies.

For example, a typical medium sized family car will create around 24 tonnes of CO2 during its life cycle, while an electric vehicle (EV) will produce around 18 tonnes over its life. For a battery EV, 46% of its total carbon footprint is generated at the factory, before it has travelled a single mile.

Greg Archer, LowCVP Managing Director, said: "This work dispels the myth that low carbon vehicles simply displace emissions from the exhaust to other sources. However, it does highlight the need to look at reducing carbon emissions from vehicles throughout their lifecycle.

"The automotive industry is already taking positive steps to address this issue - the recent announcement by Toyota of a solar array to provide electricity to power the hybrid Auris production facility and wind power at the Nissan Leaf plant are excellent examples of this.

1 Ricardo is a leading global provider of product innovation, engineering solutions, clean technology and strategic consulting
For a standard mid-sized gasoline ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle the embedded carbon in production will be around 5.6tCO2e, around three quarters of which is the steel in the vehicle glider. This highlights the importance of deploying low weight, low carbon alternatives to current steels in the ultra-low carbon vehicles of the future. A similar electric vehicle will have embedded production emissions of 8.8tCO2e, 43% of which arise from the battery. Decarbonising both electricity supply, through renewables; and the production of batteries will therefore be essential for electric vehicles to deliver ultra-low carbon lifetime emissions.

The report also indicates that lifecycle carbon emissions for mid-sized petrol and diesel vehicles doing a similar lifetime mileage are almost identical – the greater efficiency of the diesel being offset by high production emissions. It also highlights that some regulations designed to improve recyclability, safety or reduce air pollution can increase carbon emissions in production or use.

Ricardo Chief Technology & Innovation Officer and Chairman of the LowCVP, Prof. Neville Jackson, said "There is an emerging consensus that we need to move towards a more holistic analysis of whole life CO2 emissions in order to make more informed and better long term decisions on future technologies.
"Life cycle analysis is still in its infancy, with little defined process and standards. The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership report is an important contribution to this type of analysis and highlights the need to work toward a common methodology and approach to deliver consistent and robust life cycle data on CO2 emissions."

As a wider range of electric, biofuel and potentially hydrogen vehicles compete with petrol and diesel models in the future it will become essential to compare vehicles on a whole-life carbon basis. The study shows the complexity, but also the practicalities of calculating whole life carbon emissions and highlights the need to develop a standard methodology acceptable to vehicle manufacturers.

Greg Archer added: "We already measure the whole life carbon emissions of biofuels and doing the same for vehicles is entirely feasible. However, it does require effort to be directed now, at agreeing how this should be done consistently at an EU, or possibly global level."

About LowCVP

The LowCVP ( ) was established in 2003 to take a lead in accelerating the shift to low carbon vehicles and fuels in the UK and to help ensure that UK business can benefit from that shift. It has approaching 200 organisations from the automotive and fuel industries, the environmental sector, government, academia, road user groups and other organisations with a stake in the low carbon vehicles and fuels agenda.

The report is being released as part of the LowCVP Annual Conference 2011, "Just over the Horizon: mobility to 2020 and beyond". The conference is being held on Thursday 9 June

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