Production of electric vehicles has twice the global warming potential of fossil fuel powered cars

A new Norwegian study, “Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles” published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology (full paper here) found that the “use phase” of electric vehicles (EVs) “powered by the present European electricity mix offers a 10% to 24% decrease in global warming potential (GWP) relative to conventional diesel or gasoline vehicles assuming lifetimes of 150,000 km. However, EVs exhibit the potential for significant increases in human toxicity, freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, and metal depletion impacts, largely emanating from the vehicle supply chain.” The authors call that “problem shifting.”

The global warming potential in the “production phase” of electric vehicles is double that of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). “In contrast with ICEVs, almost half of an EV’s life cycle GWP is associated with its production. We estimate the GWP from EV production to be 87 to 95 grams carbon dioxide equivalent per kilometer (g CO2-eq/km), which is roughly twice the 43 g CO2-eq/km associated with ICEV production. Battery production contributes 35% to 41% of the EV production phase GWP, whereas the electric engine contributes 7% to 8%. Other power train components, notably inverters and the passive battery cooling system with their high aluminum content, contribute 16% to 18% of the embodied GWP of EVs.”

The authors of this paper have tried to base their estimates on a typical use scenario, but they realize that conditions vary. They discuss many caveats in their estimate in an effort to be transparent. Read the full paper for details.

See also:

The Chevy Volt, just the latest expensive toy

Does the Chevy Volt produce more CO2 from its battery than from its gasoline engine

Nissan Leaf battery degrades quickly in hot climates

Which Vehicles Are Most Energy Efficient?





  1. The EVs components are to be recycled, esp, batteries. And then, EVs are yet in their experimental stage, so all these numbers are going to change, even more so after expected rise of nuc power share in their both production and operation.

  2. One might wonder why such a study would come out of a minor Scandinavian country like Norway

    Until you realize Norway is right behind Venezuela in terms of international hydrocarbon producers, so running their book is not surprising

    And having a tool of the oil industry like you sniff it out is no surprise either

    I know you haven’t noticed the massive climate changes, and reject the overwhelming evidence that they are indeed anthropomorphic in origin

    But I wonder…do you have no one that you will leave on this Earth who will be subject to the tender mercies of the Koch brothers whose water you gleefully carry?

    1. “The Koch brothers” like so many other leftist tropes is not an argument. I like the oil industry. It keeps us warm in winter and allows me to travel to the store to buy groceries. BTW, who exactly is the “oil industry?” Well it is people who own small parts of those companies. Their stock pays for American’s retirements, their housing, their educations, etc. Oil companies make about 6 cents profit on every dollar. Apple and Microsoft about 27 cents. Why don’t you hate them? Oh you do? I forgot. Leftists just hate everything.

    2. Del, Resorting to libelous accusations shows that you lack any basis for factual argument and have fallen for the unsupported myths of AGW and ad hominem attacks. That demonstrates your lack of knowledge on the subject.

  3. While you do link to the study and do encourage readers to “read the full paper”, it’s not surprising you slant your article and focus on only one-third of the study. The main focus of the study was the the life-cycle impact of conventional and electric vehicles.- they considered how the production, the use and the end-of-life dismantling of a car affects the environment. You reported only the first 3rd of the study. Yes, they realized that “conditions vary” – the most important variable is how electricity is produced in the area where the electric vehicle is used. If electricity is produced primarily from fossil fuels – coal, oil, or natural gas – then over the life cycle an electric car offers no benefits and may even cause more harm than gas or diesel powered cars. However, in areas in which electricity made from low-carbon electricity sources, they offer “the potential for substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and exposure to tailpipe emissions” over the life cycle.

    Since they’re in Norway, the authors of the study focused on Europe, and found electric vehicles powered by the present European electricity mix offer a 10% to 24% decrease in their global warming potential relative to conventional diesel or petrol vehicles over the entire life cycle – production, use and end of life dismantling . The study made no comparisons for the U.S. I would think it varies by location – in the Pacific Northwest where most electricity is produced by hydroelectric electric cars provide substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. And in the Phoenix area, where most electricity is produced by nuclear power. Here in southern Arizona, not so much as sadly most of our electricity is still produced by coal fired plants.

    And your article fails as it only tells one-third of the story.

    1. I covered the main thrust of the paper and emphasized points in the paper abstract. Sorry you feel that green cars aren’t so green.

      1. No you didn’t, you only covered one of the three areas the study focused on. You left out the part that would be of interest to most people – are electric cars effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions while they’re being used. And don’t put words in my mouth – I think electric and hybrid cars are always green. Sometimes in some geographical areas the electricity they use isn’t so green, which can negate their green benefits.

      2. You are missing the point. One has to take into account the total life cycle or you are just fooling yourself into thinking you are green. A similar theme is used in the link to “Which vehicles are most energy efficient” to see total energy use. There is a different between appearance and reality (as demonstrated by Obama rhetoric vs results).

      3. That IS my point, that one has to consider the entire life cycle. While you on the other hand, purposely mislead readers by highlighting only the 1st phase, the production of the cars.

    2. The concept of “problem shifting.” seems to escape BajaDEM.

      “EVs exhibit the potential for significant increases in human toxicity, freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, and metal depletion impacts, largely emanating from the vehicle supply chain.”

  4. How many decades must be “experimental stage” or “development stage” be the excuse for EV cost and failure? And, if recycling is needed cost offset, will it occur at the paltry rate consumers recycle pop and beer cans? If so, don’t count on savings there….

  5. It seems Mr. Duhamel is not a scientist himself. The Norwegian paper doesn’t state that EVs are bad or ICEVs good, it just shows the life cycle results. And it doesn’t conflict any previous LCA which also show similar data. The only thing that made the study a bit misleading is that they didn’t include a green electricity scenario – Norwegian electricity is 80-95% hydroelectricity, which would yield a 50% smaller carbon footprint for EVs. But if Mr. Duhamel doesn’t think AGW is a plausible notion then this would probably not matter anyway, he would still claim that EVs have no benefits. But I agree, that the battery industry has a lot to improve on.

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