Does Driving an Electric Car Decarbonize the Economy?

Author: Vignesh Sivaprakasam, Graphics: Jenny Chen

The BRB Bottomline

The rise of electric vehicles and the recent adoption of legislation in California and countries across the globe to transfer to electric vehicles has brought up the question if electric vehicles actually make the carbon economy bubble smaller.

What’s the greenest drive to work—especially if it’s relatively close by? With an evolving electric car economy, substituting your conventional car for an electric car and driving it daily for as long as possible (especially with a low-carbon intensive grid mix) seems the way to go. But what is the true impact of this?

The Rise of Electric Cars

Over the past decade, the rapid growth and rise of electric cars has taken the world by storm. From more affordable fueling to more green rides, electric cars have been marketed to consumers as recommended alternatives to the conventional gas and internal combustion engine cars. With growing concerns of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, the conscientious consumer is becoming increasingly interested in greener infrastructure and transportation. 

In fact, in the past twenty years, more electric vehicles have been produced than ever before. Manufacturers such as Tesla have accelerated the zero emissions mission through quick charging infrastructure across the planet and high capacity lithium ion battery packs. 

For many people, climate change has been a growing concern, but the introduction of electric vehicles have helped “decarbonize” the environment. In the short term, electric vehicles are able to decrease emissions, but how do electric vehicles impact emissions in the long term?

The Break Even of Carbon Emissions

In 2016, The International Reference Center for Life Cycle of Products, Services and Systems (CIRAIG) published an environmental life cycle evaluation that delved into electric vehicles’ data sources, yields, and ecological effects—from material extraction to end of life. The point? Decide if driving an electric vehicle can help decarbonize an economy.

The response? It depends. On one level, there is the stigma on electric cars: an electric vehicle is just as green as the power grid used to recharge it—greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) during an electric vehicle’s lifetime are vigorously reliant on the nation’s power network blend. A matrix with almost 99 percent environmentally friendly power from hydroelectricity and wind energy, like the one in Quebec, introduced far lower GHG emissions than a framework blend dependent on petroleum derivatives (e.g., Germany) or a network blend which depends all the more vigorously on coal-based power (e.g., China).

However, here’s the kicker. Indeed, even with the cleanest power network, the distance you drive an electric vehicle comparative with a gas powered vehicle decides if it is ‘earth advantageous’ to take the jump toward electric.

The graphic above illustrates how conventional cars and electric vehicles compare based on carbon emissions related to kilometers. (Source: Lea)

The Cost of Adopting Electric Cars

Cost is a significant factor for car buyers. Empirical proof shows that electric vehicles are costlier to buy and to protect. As indicated by an examination by Arthur D. Little (ADL), the 20-year cost of responsibility for electric vehicles runs $20,000 to $32,000 in excess of a customary reduced and fair sized vehicle, respectively. Put into perspective, a minimized electric vehicle costs 44% more and a moderate size electric vehicle costs 60% more than their gas powered partners.

There are an assortment of state and government incentives accessible to electric vehicle purchasers and the measure of these expense sponsorships has fluctuated throughout the most recent decade. As one government report referred to, vehicle purchasers can meet all requirements for up to $7,500 in government tax reductions for purchasing an electric vehicle. 

When looking at the energy and emissions from the assembling of battery cells and packs, just as for energizing and supplanting batteries over the life of a vehicle, electric vehicle ownership is a long way from green. Truth be told, these vehicles will, in general, save money on ecological emissions just in the event that they are utilized seriously over their lifetime. The ADL study discovered medium sized electric vehicles spared just 19% on CO2 outflows more than 20-years of utilization, and reduced and moderate size electric vehicles saved money (all things considered) 23%, accepting use surpassing 150,000 miles. Just 9% of vehicles get by following 20 years of utilization. On the off chance that battery electric vehicles are not utilized seriously, they can offer more to ozone harming substance emissions than an ordinary gas-filled vehicle. Indeed, if each vehicle on the planet were electric, the complete decrease in carbon emanations would fall by just 1.8%.

The Current Legislation Imposed for this Adoption


With the growing number of fires in California, change needs to be made to decrease emissions and lead to fewer serious climate change events. 

With an end goal to battle environmental change, California Gov. Gavin Newsom as of now has defined the objective of 100% zero-emissions for vehicles for the state’s power by 2045. 

The most recent advance in the state’s arrangement to lessen ozone harming emissions was when Newsom promised to boycott all deals of new gas fueled vehicles by 2035. The chief request wouldn’t keep Californians from claiming or selling gas or diesel-controlled vehicles on the trade-in vehicle market.

California would be the first state in the nation with such a plan, joining in any event 15 nations, including France and Germany, that have made comparable promises to eliminate gas-fueled vehicles.


The Norwegian example of overcoming adversity is most importantly because of a generous bundle of incentives created to advance zero-emission vehicles into the market. The motivating forces have been steadily presented by various governments and expansive alliances of gatherings since the mid 1990s to accelerate the change. The Norwegian Parliament has settled on a public objective that all new vehicles sold by 2025 should be zero-outflow (electric or hydrogen). As of May 2018, there are 230,000 enrolled battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in Norway. Battery electric and module half breed vehicles together hold a 50% piece of the pie. The speed of the progress is firmly identified with strategy instruments and a wide scope of impetuses. 

The general sign from most ideological groups is that it ought to consistently be monetarily useful to pick zero and low discharge vehicles over high emission vehicles. This is acquired with the polluter pays principle in the vehicle charge framework. High expenses for high outflow vehicles and lower charges for low and zero-emanation vehicles. Presenting charges on contaminating vehicles can back motivating forces for zero-emanation vehicles with no misfortune in incomes.

Take-Home Points

While electric cars have been able to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by creating less outputs from cars, the production of battery cells leads to more extensive production emissions. Electric cars need to be produced more efficiently in order to decrease long term emission productions.

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