New study finds when EVs are greener. And when not

According to the Manhattan Institute report, some electric vehicles initially produce more greenhouse gas emissions than their combustion engine counterparts. Why does this happen, and when do these emissions balance out?

Are EVs not as clean?

Critics often argue that battery electric vehicles’ production, disposal, and reliance on coal-based electricity generation result in a larger carbon footprint compared to internal combustion engine cars. Unfortunately, there have been very few studies to confirm or debunk this claim. But that is no longer the case.

The Manhattan Institute has finally compiled a comprehensive report comparing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire lifespan of both electric vehicles and combustion engine cars, analyzing dozens of different parameters.


Photo by Waldemar on Unsplash

What does the new study say?

According to the report, the potential for greenhouse gas emissions in electric vehicles is much broader than in combustion engine vehicles, mainly due to significant differences in emissions during the pre-production phases, especially in mining. These differences can be so substantial that the “dirtiest” electric vehicles may have over twice the emissions compared to the cleanest combustion engines.

However, combustion engine cars generally catch up with EVs after about 60,000 kilometers driven. From that point on, their emissions continue to increase, and the gap between them and electric vehicles starts to widen.

An interesting comparison is made based on vehicle categories. For instance, in the case of sedans, electric cars become more environmentally friendly than their combustion counterparts after 1.4 to 1.5 years of use. For SUVs, it takes around 1.6 to 1.9 years, and for pickups, it’s approximately 1.6 years. The study considers the average mileage of cars in the United States, where the study originates.

So yes, electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly, but it depends on their overall mileage and, of course, how they are specifically operated.


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