EV batteries are bad for the climate

Tesla batteries electric carThis undated image provided by Tesla Motors shows the Tesla Model 3 sedan. The electric car company‚the newest editione, the Model 3, which set to go to its first 30 customers Friday, July 28, 2017, is half the cost of previous models. Its $35,000 starting price and 215-mile range could bring hundreds of thousands of customers into Tesla's fold, taking it from a niche luxury brand to the mainstream. (Courtesy of Tesla Motors via AP)

Electric vehicle (EV) batteries greatly affect the climate

Electric Vehicles doesn’t seem to be the Columbus egg to solve the forecasted environmental crisis, after all. In addition to the suffering modern batteries indirectly inflict on the war-torn Congo, the manufacturing of them constitute pollution equal to many thousands of miles of conventional vehicles.


Electric cars are part of the future. Driving one has the advantage that no exhaust gases are involved and the climate impact – when driving – is minute. Additionally, if you charge the batteries with climate-smart electricity, the concept becomes even better. But is an electric car so extremely climate-smart as it is often portrayed as? Both yes and no. The manufacturing process itself, just like for non-electric cars, is costly in terms of emissions, and not least the battery production itself.

Effect partially cancelled out

According to a recent report compiled by IVL, the Swedish Environmental Agency for the Energy Agency and Traffic Authority, battery manufacturing is so energy-intensive that the electric vehicle’s climate benefit is partially cancelled out.

– Electric cars and hybrid cars have major advantages over petrol and diesel cars, especially in terms of local emissions and noise levels. But it is also important to look behind the curtain and minimise the environmental impact at the production stage, says researcher at IVL Swedish Environmental Institute, Lisbeth Dahllöf. She has, together with her colleague Mia Romare, reviewed the literature on greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption in the production and recycling of lithium-ion batteries used in light vehicles.

150 to 200 kgs carbon dioxide per KW/h

According to their compilation, an average of 150 to 200 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour battery capacity is emitted for light electric cars (eg passenger cars). For an electric car with a 30 kWh battery, this equates to between 4.5 and 6 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions only in the manufacture of the battery. For an electric car with a 100 kWh battery, it, therefore, means that between 15 and 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide are released during the manufacturing process. The calculations are based on between 50 and 70 per cent fossil fuel used in the electricity mix in the production process.

– The results show that one should not consider choosing an electric car with a larger battery capacity than necessary. In the future, it is important that the production of electric car batteries is as energy-efficient as possible and with the supply of electricity either completely without or with low carbon emissions, Mia Romare concludes.


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