Electric vehicles up to 67% less emissions intensive than ICE cars

A typical mid-size electric vehicle (EV) can generate up to 67% lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than a gasoline internal combustion engine (ICE) car on a well-to-wheel basis. However, the crucial factor is the location in which they are driven, according to Wood Mackenzie’s latest research on mobility transition.

The analysis is focused on well-to-wheel assessment. This involves a number of factors – how the fuel is produced in refineries, where the crude oil is sourced from, mileage of the car, how the electricity is produced, and the energy use associated with vehicle and battery manufacturing and charging. These factors differ from country to country.

Comparing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from an EV and an ICE car is not straightforward. It’s worth noting that, even though EVs have zero tailpipe emissions, they are not GHG emissions-free when evaluated on a well-to-wheel basis. When using Wood Mackenzie’s integrated model, based on the existing electricity generation mix in developing economies such as China and India, an EV can only displace up to half the GHG emissions of an ICE gasoline car.

The demand for road transport is growing rapidly with urbanisation – and EVs are starting to challenge the supremacy of ICE cars by addressing air quality concerns. However, when there is a high share of coal or other fossil fuels in the power mix, typical in APAC countries, the competitiveness of EVs versus ICE cars decreases. To overcome this issue, governments in developing countries – such as China and India – could look at electrifying the current ICE car taxi fleet. In doing so, this would help achieve emissions abatement faster than incentivising and promoting the use of privately owned EVs because of their greater utilisation in terms of miles travelled.

The most crucial factor in sustaining the current advantage for EVs is decarbonisation of the power sector. As gasoline ICE vehicles become more fuel efficient, the power mix must comprise more renewables for EVs to remain GHG competitive. Currently, the power sectors in the UK and US are 30% less emissions intensive than markets in Asia.

For climate change enthusiasts and regulators, electrification of transport is a useful remedy to tackle air pollutants and GHG emissions, and fulfil NDC pledges as a result. The focus again shifts to the power sector. However, the findings in this report reflect the current state. Only time will tell if power sector decarbonisation will go hand-in-hand with EV cost reduction and adoption.

Source: Wood Mackenzie