Is the Automotive Industry’s Transition to 100 Percent Electric Vehicles the Most Effective Way to Decarbonize European Transport?
It’s the question on everyone’s minds: is the automotive industry’s shift towards 100 percent electric vehicles (EVs) really the best solution for decarbonizing European transport? A new study by Garrett Motion Inc., a leading technology provider for the automotive industry, challenges the commonly held belief that EVs are the ultimate answer to reducing CO2 emissions.
The study, titled “Is the automotive industry’s transition to 100 percent electric vehicles the most effective way to decarbonize European transport?” takes a deep dive into the lifecycle of EVs and compares their CO2 emissions to that of hybrid vehicles. Contrary to popular belief, the results reveal minimal to no advantage for EVs in terms of CO2 emissions when compared to hybrids.
The study focuses on various factors specific to Europe, including different electrified technology options, vehicle segments, average annual vehicle use ranges, and the carbon-intensity of electricity generation for production and charging. By considering these factors, Garrett Motion seeks to provide a holistic view of the environmental impact of different vehicle technologies.
One surprising finding of the study is the notion that increasing the range of EVs through larger and heavier batteries may not necessarily be an effective strategy for reducing emissions. Instead, the study suggests that aligning the size of the vehicle’s battery with its intended daily use, rather than occasional long trips, is ideal. In fact, for typical daily vehicle use, hybrids with low-capacity batteries tend to outperform EVs in terms of minimizing emissions.
Olivier Rabiller, chairman and CEO of Garrett, emphasizes the importance of allowing consumers to choose the electrified solution that fits their needs best. He states, “We are all pursuing the same goal of reducing total vehicle emissions to achieve Net Zero. Electrification is essential to reduce CO2 emissions. But, as our study shows, for certain use cases some technologies can be less polluting than 100 percent electric vehicles. It is therefore crucial for consumers to be able to choose the electrified solution that best suits their intended use.”
Drawing from real-world CO2 emissions data from the European car market, Garrett’s study adds valuable insights to the existing body of knowledge on lifecycle assessments (LCAs) of vehicles. It takes into account a wide range of electrified technologies, including mild hybrids, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and 100 percent electric vehicles, across different vehicle segments such as compact sedans, SUVs, sports vehicles, and light commercial vehicles.
One key aspect highlighted by the study is the importance of considering the actual use of a vehicle when evaluating its environmental impact. Depending on the use case, different electrified technologies may emit more or fewer CO2 emissions. For example, the study reveals that plug-in hybrids are the least CO2-emitting choice compared to EVs for certain mileage ranges. It takes at least 12 years for a popular C-segment sedan to reach the equilibrium point of total CO2 emissions of an EV, compared to a plug-in hybrid vehicle, for those who drive 11,300 km or less per year.
The study also suggests that the “100 percent BEV” mandates, such as the one planned for Europe by 2035, may not be the optimal solution for reducing the environmental impact of cars and commercial vehicles. Instead, a combination of EVs and hybrids used in a complementary manner can better meet the diverse daily transportation needs.
However, it is important to note that this study focuses solely on lifecycle CO2 emissions and does not take into account other crucial challenges associated with vehicle electrification, such as mineral extraction for battery manufacturing and the costs of adopting electrified technologies. The costs associated with battery size and materials remain significant hurdles to widespread EV adoption.
Garrett Motion’s study aims to contribute to the conversation around LCA methodologies and encourages the consideration of real-world criteria, such as vehicle usage, when calculating the environmental impact of different electrified technologies. By providing a comprehensive analysis of the CO2 emissions generated throughout a vehicle’s lifecycle, including manufacturing and use, the study sheds light on the potential trade-offs and considerations that need to be made in the quest for sustainable transportation.
In conclusion, while EVs have been championed as the silver bullet for reducing CO2 emissions in the automotive industry, Garrett Motion’s study challenges this notion. It reveals that the actual use of a vehicle, battery size, and intended daily use are crucial factors to consider when evaluating the environmental impact of different electrified technologies. By embracing a combination of EVs and hybrids and aligning battery size with daily use, we can make more informed decisions to effectively decarbonize European transport.