Unboxing claims “Electric cars aren’t as green as you think”

Volvo has pledged to make only electric cars by 2030. In November last year, it released a 50-page report that dives into exquisite detail about the total carbon footprint of its cars, the purpose being to allow an honest and transparent analysis of the progress it is making towards its corporate goal of reducing emissions from the manufacture of its automobiles by 40% by 2025, compared to the base year of 2018.

Volvo produces three versions of its 40-series cars – the gasoline-powered XC40, the battery-powered XC40 Recharge and the C40 Recharge, a more aerodynamic version of the XC40 Recharge. All three are built in the same factory by the same workers using similar parts. This allows Volvo to perform an in-depth analysis of the emissions characteristics of each. On page 24 of his study, there is a sentence that has been seized upon by anti-EV provocateurs to prove that electric cars aren’t as “green” as people think. Here is what he says:

Also including Li-ion battery modules and Volvo manufacturing, GHG emissions are almost 70% higher for the C40 Recharge compared to the XC40 ICE.

According to Volvo, its battery electric cars may need to travel 100,000 kilometers or more to offset the emissions associated with building its battery!

We have to run and talk to the king of electric cars!

Well, that’s scary news, isn’t it? A major automaker admits it may take years of driving before its battery-electric vehicles break even on greenhouse gas emissions. The answer, of course, is that a person should read and understand the entire 50-page report before drawing any conclusions. That someone would be me. Here is what I found.

First, the calculation used by Volvo indicates that the results depend to a large extent on the source of electricity that its customers use to charge their vehicles. If they drive in Poland, where 90% of electricity comes from burning coal, then yes, it will take them 100,000 kilometers or more to reach parity with a conventional gasoline car. On the other hand, if the electricity comes from renewable sources such as wind or solar, the crossover point is closer to 50,000 kilometers. The intermediate scenario, based on the running The EU’s energy mix is ​​77,000 kilometres.

“Current” is the key word. If people bothered to read Volvo’s report, they would find that it explicitly states that the grid is getting greener as more and more renewable energy becomes available.

“[T]The increased use of renewable energy sources in the scenarios of the European electricity mix positively affects GHG emissions, but also… new policies are needed to achieve the climate objectives set in the Paris agreement. The most effective way to reduce GHG emissions is… to switch to electricity with a much lower carbon intensity, such as wind power with an emission factor of only around 3% of the emission factor for the current EU-28 mix.

“The scenarios for the European market indicate that the carbon intensity of electricity production could decrease further there. This would mean that there is likely to be a continued reduction in the carbon footprint of BEVs even if no active choice of using renewable energy in the use phase is made, although an active choice of electricity renewable makes a much bigger positive difference to the climate.

The company also claims that internal combustion technology took more than a century to get to where it is today. EV technology, on the other hand, is still in its infancy. Improvements in battery technology occur almost daily. Battery recycling operations are ramping up around the world, which will dramatically reduce the need to mine lithium and other natural resources, such as nickel and cobalt, which are used to make lithium-ion batteries. ‘today. When was the last time you heard someone talk about recycling internal combustion engine components?

Additionally, many companies are touting new batteries that use cheap and readily available materials like iron and sulfur. Volvo specifically states, for those willing to read more than one sentence in a 50-page report, that it is working hard to reduce emissions associated with building its cars and extending this policy to its suppliers.

“Reducing the impact of materials requires more efficient production, increased use of recycled content and more renewable energy in production. Therefore, Volvo Cars is currently investigating the use of fossil-free steel in our products, which has very low GHG emissions, as well as increasing the share of recycled content.

“GHG emissions from the production of polymers for different plastics are currently also significant. These emissions can be reduced by increasing the use of recycled plastics and bioplastics, which would also reduce fossil GHG emissions when incinerated after use. Volvo Cars aims to use at least 25% recycled or bio-based plastics in its products by 2025. »

Volvo says something that is curious. He says part of the reason his electric cars create more emissions in the production phase is because they use more aluminum, but charts accompanying the report show the petrol-powered XC40 has a aluminum by 34%, while the XC40 Recharge uses 30% aluminum and the C40 Recharge 29%.

The truth about electric cars

In the last paragraph of its report, Volvo states:

“The study’s break-even analysis examines at what driving distance the carbon footprints of the C40 Recharge become lower than those of the XC40 ICE (E5 petrol) based on an alternative electric mix. It shows that all Break-even points for the electric mixes tested are within the total driving distance used of 200,000 km.After the break-even point, the carbon footprint of the C40 Recharge improves linearly compared to the XC40 ICE.The longer the duration life, the better the relative carbon footprint of the C40 refill.

“It should be noted that a BEV sold in a carbon-intensive electricity generation market can indeed be recharged with electricity from renewable energies, which would significantly reduce the carbon footprint. Moreover, the results assume a constant carbon intensity in the alternative electricity mix throughout the life of the vehicle (which is) likely to overestimate the total carbon footprint, at least in Europe.

the BBC weighs in

Luckily, as I was getting ready to write about the Volvo study, my EV newsfeed popped up with an article on this topic from Scientific orientation, a service of BBC. He says: “At first glance, electric cars may seem like the perfect antidote to petrol and diesel vehicles, the fumes of which smother cities and towns with air pollution. But they can still have adverse effects on the environment.

“When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, electric cars are only as green as the energy used to make them and to charge their batteries. However, a recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation concluded that over their lifetime (including manufacturing), electric vehicles are responsible for fewer greenhouse gas emissions than their counterparts. gasoline.

“But this difference was much greater in some places than in others. In Europe, an electric car generates up to 69% less CO2 equivalent per kilometer than a gasoline car. However, in India, this figure is 34%. The disparity comes down to how electricity is obtained in each country.

Final Thoughts

All this talk about carbon emissions overlooks an important point. In addition to the carbon dioxide that escapes from the exhaust pipes of conventional cars, they also spit a cloud of fine particles into the atmosphere. Whether it is coal, oil, gasoline or diesel, fossil fuels create FPM pollution when burned. Fine particles are so small that they pass directly into the bloodstream in the lungs and travel to all parts of our body, from our brain to our livers to our toes. They are found in breast milk and human placentas. They impair cognitive function, make us sick and cause us to die sooner than we should. And for that, fossil fuel advocates want to kick electric cars? What is wrong with you people?

The electric vehicle revolution has many components. This means better battery technology, more efficient manufacturing and expanding renewable energy supply. People who grab a sentence from a 50-page report to whip their agenda are dishonest fools. Ignore them. They will soon be useless.

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