An Inconvenient Truth: EVs May Offer A "Negligible" CO2 Difference From ICE Vehicles

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Are the carbon footprints of EVs really as drastically lower than that of internal combustion engine vehicles? When considering the amount of carbon and CO2 created from assembling lithium ion batteries, one firm thinks the difference could be "negligible".

Such was the topic of a new blog post by natural resource investors Goehring & Rozencwajg (G&R), a "fundamental research firm focused exclusively on contrarian natural resource investments with a team with over 30 years of dedicated resource experience."

The firm, established in 2015, posted a blog entry entitled "Exploring Lithium-ion Electric Vehicles’ Carbon Footprint" this week, where they call into question a former ICE vs. EV comparison performed by the Wall Street Journal and, while citing work performed by Jefferies, argue that there could literally be "no reduction in CO2 output" in some EV vs. ICE comparisons. 

Their analysis "details the tremendous amount of energy (and by extension CO2) needed to manufacture a lithium-ion battery." Because a typical EV is on average 50% heavier than a similar internal combustion engine, the analysis notes that the “embedded carbon” in an EV (i.e., when it rolls off the lot) is therefore 20–50% more than an internal combustion engine.

The report notes:

Our analysis suggests a modern lithium-ion battery has approximately 135,000 miles of range before it degrades to the point of becoming unusable. An extended-range Tesla Model 3 has an 82 kWh battery and consumes approximately 29 kWh per 100 miles. Assuming each charge cycle has a ~95% round-trip efficiency and a battery can achieve 500 cycles before starting to degrade, we conclude a Model 3 can drive 134,310 miles before dramatically losing range.

Incidentally, Tesla’s Model 3 warranty covers the battery for the lesser of eight years or 120,000 miles and does not apply until the battery has degraded by at least 30%. If the Jefferies analysis is correct (and we believe it is), then an EV will reach carbon-emission parity with an internal-combustion vehicle just as its battery requires replacement. This will come as a huge disappointment for those believing that EV adoption will have significant impacts on CO2 reduction.

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Charles Howard 3 days ago Member's comment

The FUD is out in full force!