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Green bona fides of EVs questioned

March 11, 2013

Bjorn Lomborg has a piece up at the Wall Street Journal that references a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of battery powered electric vehicles (BEVs).  Because of the energy costs associated with the extraction of rare earth minerals, plus the fabrication of those minerals into advanced batteries, BEVs on average are actually responsible for greater greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than are vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.  The production GHG output is so much greater that one would have to drive a BEV longer than its theoretical battery life to catch up (and, when you add the GHG emissions associated with a replacement battery, you have to drive it even longer).  So, in return for presenting the owner a false veneer of environmental consciousness, a BEV costs more up front and emits more GHG over its lifetime.

Lifetime Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Hawkins, et al, 2012)

Lifetime Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Hawkins, et al, 2012)

Of course, there are other reasons for owning a BEV – they appeal to the gadget and status conscious, and the rising cost of gasoline may make some models financially attractive for urban commuters (especially in warm climates – batteries do not always wake up on  very cold mornings in the northeast).

The LCA to which Lomborg refers is titled Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles by Troy Hawkins, Bhawna Singh, Guillame Majeau-Bettez and Anders Hammer Stromman and was published last year in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.  A free copy is available here in pdf  format.

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