The curse of 'white oil': electric vehicles' dirty secret

sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
743
Central Ohio

The extra materials and energy involved in manufacturing a lithium-ion battery mean that, at present, the carbon emissions associated with producing an electric car are higher than those for a vehicle running on petrol or diesel – by as much as 38%, according to some calculations.
The above statement from the article makes me wonder how "green" electric cars really are.
 
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woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,278
SE PA
This article does not claim to do a lifecycle analysis at all. Its a story about lithium mining.

The lifecycle analyses I have seen show that the carbon emissions associated with building an EV are slightly higher than an ICE car. Percentages vary, but the quoted 'up to 38%' seems to suggest that is the upper range of estimates. Why not state the entire range?

But the carbon emissions of building an ICE car are totally dwarfed by its lifetime tailpipe emissions, like 10:1 or more. So the 'up front carbon' means little over the whole lifecycle.

So the 'are EV's greener' question really comes down to the CO2 intensity of your electricity supply, relative to gasoline. Studies have shown that a US grid average CO2 intensity (several years ago) suggested that EVs had CO2 emissions comparable to 60-70 mpg ICE vehicles, versus a US fleet average of a bit over a third of that. In other words less than half the CO2/mile overall with grid average conventional electricity.

These figures have probably improved with the acceleration of coal-fired plant shutdowns since 2016.
 

Easy Livin’ 3000

Minister of Fire
Dec 23, 2015
2,868
SEPA
I read this article, too. It provides a few anecdotes about the local impact of mines, and uses the idillc Portuguese countryside to make maximum impact.

Granted, open mines are not great for local ecologies. This applies whether lithium, fossil fuels, metals, whatever. But they are temporary, and can (and should be ) fully remediated. The big difference is that once mined and refined, lithium can be used over and over to store energy from relatively clean sources.

That energy has historically been generated from fossil fuels does not dictate that it will be in the future. And lithium recycling will get much better in the future.

A misleading article, clearly leading to faulty conclusions. This is the kind of clever and cynical propaganda that the fossil fuel industry has been churning out for decades.
 

sloeffle

Minister of Fire
Mar 1, 2012
743
Central Ohio
So the 'are EV's greener' question really comes down to the CO2 intensity of your electricity supply, relative to gasoline. Studies have shown that a US grid average CO2 intensity (several years ago) suggested that EVs had CO2 emissions comparable to 60-70 mpg ICE vehicles, versus a US fleet average of a bit over a third of that. In other words less than half the CO2/mile overall with grid average conventional electricity.
Thanks for the info.

I wonder if there is a study that compares the overall carbon emissions ( building, driving, oil changes, etc ) of an ICE sedan vs an EV sedan.
 

Easy Livin’ 3000

Minister of Fire
Dec 23, 2015
2,868
SEPA
Thanks for the info.

I wonder if there is a study that compares the overall carbon emissions ( building, driving, oil changes, etc ) of an ICE sedan vs an EV sedan.
I'm sure there are several out there, but I've never seen one or looked. I rely on a little bit of back of envelope analysis. The electric vehicles entire drivetrain is one to four electric motors. No transmission, no heavy complicated engine.

I think the most interesting data will be the evolution of car dealerships. Goodbye highly profitable service department!
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,278
SE PA
Thanks for the info.

I wonder if there is a study that compares the overall carbon emissions ( building, driving, oil changes, etc ) of an ICE sedan vs an EV sedan.
There are many peer reviewed studies, backed by entities like the NAS, that I have seen. But I read all those papers more than 5 years ago....and don't have them handy or time to dig them up again. Its one of those things that is accepted by engineers and scientists...and so they never talk about it anymore.
 
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