Electric cars & pollution: facts and Myths

Electric cars & pollution: facts and Myths

Making an electric car pollutes 70% more than a gasoline one(BUT IN THE LONG RUN IT POLLUTES LESS)

Anew study affirms that building an electric car pollutes 70% more than the same gasoline model, a gigantic difference that is recovered during the useful life of the first although this depends on the origin of the electricity.
The report on the carbon footprint of the Volvo C40 Recharge published by the Swedish manufacturer leaves no room for doubt: while the manufacture of an equivalent model car with a combustion engine – the Volvo XC40 – generates 14 tons, the C40 generates 25 tons of CO2.

Blame it on the battery

Most of this pollution comes from batteries. According to Volvo, the C40 and XC40 are built in the same factories, on the same assembly lines and share most of the same components except for the engine and batteries. The production of materials for the C40 generates 18 tons of CO2 for 14 of the XC40, a remarkable difference. Manufacturing the lithium-ion batteries for the C40 makes the big difference: it adds seven more tons of CO2. During build, the C40 narrowly gains 1.4 tonnes to the 1.7 tonnes of the XC40.

The origin of electricity is the key

The Volvo report then sets out several consumption scenarios. Taking as a reference a total of 200,000 kilometers traveled, the XC40 would generate 43 tons of CO2, to which we must add 0.6 more tons for processing at the end of life. In total, the XC40 would generate 59 tons of CO2. For the electric model, the total varies depending on the source of the electricity. If the source is purely renewable (for example wind power), the C40 will only generate a total of 0.4 tons of CO2 during its entire useful life, plus 0.5 for recycling the car. In total: the C40 would generate 27 tons of carbon dioxide throughout its life. The difference here is enormous in favor of the electric one, which would reach the level of the XC40 at 49,000 kilometers.

But it would be absurd to assume that electricity will only be powered by electricity generated by wind, hydroelectric or solar plants. Volvo explains that, using the current energy production mix in the European Union, the C40 would generate a total of 42 tonnes of CO2 (bringing parity to combustion at 77,000 kilometers). Using the global mix, however, you get much more: 50 tons of CO2. The difference would be nine tons with the XC40 and the electric car would need 110,000 kilometers to reach parity with the gasoline one. The difference at the end of the 200,000 kilometers would continue to be large, but not spectacular. Certainly not remarkable enough to have an impact on global CO2 generation.

We need more renewables or clean hydrogen

The obvious conclusion

which Volvo also comes to – is that we must increase renewables (or nuclear or get fusion) for electric cars to really have an effect in driving climate change.

The other conclusion

less obvious but perhaps more logical – is that battery electric cars are not the solution to our pollution problem and that more is needed. Hydrogen engines – produced from water and renewable energy – make a lot more sense.


The production and distribution of current green hydrogen could not supply the global transport industry. Like everything, it would require a great effort from private companies and states but it would be the best option at an ecological level and also for the consumer, who would have cheaper cars with lower fuel costs and greater autonomy than electric ones. An emergency solution, some experts say, could be in the use of cars with smaller batteries – and with less impact – for driving in the city and more efficient combustion engines for long distances: hybrids. At least, as a first measure to cut CO2 production more drastically and until we achieve a much greener electricity mix than the current one.

Note:Volvo has published a study in which it says that producing the electric version of one of its cars pollutes 70% more than the gasoline version, but less throughout its life.

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