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An electric vehicle charging point in Stoke-on-Trent, England.
Nathan Stirk | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The number of electric vehicles on the world’s roads is surging, hitting a record number last year.

That would seem to be good news, as the world tries to wean itself off fossil fuels that are wrecking the global climate. But as electric cars become more popular, some question just how environmentally friendly they are.

The batteries in electric vehicles, for example, charge on power that is coming straight off the electric grid — which is itself often powered by fossil fuels. And there are questions about how energy-intensive it is to build an EV or an EV battery, versus building a comparable traditional vehicle.

Are electric vehicles greener?

The short answer is yes — but their full green potential is still many years away.

Experts broadly agree that electric vehicles create a lower carbon footprint over the course of their lifetime than do cars and trucks that use traditional, internal combustion engines.

Last year, researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Exeter and Nijmegen in The Netherlands found that in 95% of the world, driving an electric car is better for the environment than driving a gasoline-powered car.

Electricity grids in most of the world are still powered by fossil fuels such as coal or oil, and EVs depend on that energy to get charged. Separately, EV battery production remains an energy-intensive process.

Producing electric vehicles leads to significantly more emissions than producing petrol cars … which is mostly from the battery production.
Florian Knobloch
Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance

A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative found that the battery and fuel production for an EV generates higher emissions than the manufacturing of an automobile. But those higher environmental costs are offset by EVs’ superior energy efficiency over time.

In short, the total emissions per mile for battery-powered cars are lower than comparable cars with internal combustion engines.

“If we are going to take a look at the current situation, in some countries, electric vehicles are better even with the current grid,” Sergey Paltsev, a senior research scientist at the MIT Energy Initiative and one of the study’s authors, told CNBC.

Paltsev explained that the full benefits of EVs will be realized only after the electricity sources become renewable, and it might take several decades for that to happen.

“Currently, the electric vehicle in the U.S., on average, would emit about 200 grams of CO2 per mile,” he said. “We are projecting that with cleaning up the grid, we can reduce emissions from electric vehicles by 75%, from about 200 (grams) today to about 50 grams of CO2 per mile in 2050.”

Similarly, Paltsev said MIT research showed non-plug-in hybrid cars with internal combustion engines currently emit about 275 grams of CO2 per mile. In 2050, their projected emissions are expected to be between 160 to 205 grams of CO2 per mile — the range is wider than EVs, because fuel standards vary from place to place.

Decarbonization is the process of reducing greenhouse gas emission produced by the burning fossil fuels. Efforts to cut down pollution across various industries are expected to further reduce the environmental impact of EV production and charging over time.

“When you look forward to the rest of the decade, where we will see massive amounts of decarbonization in power generation and massive amount of decarbonization in the industrial sector, EVs will benefit from all of that decarbonization,” Eric Hannon, a Frankfurt-based partner at McKinsey & Company, told CNBC.

Batteries are the biggest emitter

EVs rely on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to run. The process of making those batteries — from using mining raw materials like cobalt and lithium, to production in gigafactories and transportation — is energy-intensive, and one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions from EVs today, experts said.

Gigafactories are facilities that produce EV batteries on a large scale.

“Producing electric vehicles leads to significantly more emissions than producing petrol cars. Depending on the country of production, that’s between 30% to 40% extra in production emissions, which is mostly from the battery production,” said Florian Knobloch, a fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance.

Those higher production emission numbers are seen as “an initial investment, which pays off rather quickly due to the reduced lifetime emissions.”

China currently dominates battery production, with 93 gigafactories producing lithium-ion battery cells versus only four in the U.S., the Washington Post reported this year.

“I think the battery is the most complicated component in the EV, and has the most complex supply chain,” George Crabtree, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, told CNBC, adding that the energy source used in battery production makes a huge difference on the carbon footprint for EVs.

Batteries made in older gigafactories in China are usually powered by fossil fuels, because that was the trend five to 10 years ago, he explained. So, EVs that are built with batteries from existing factories

But that’s changing, he said, as “people have realized that’s a huge carbon footprint.”

Experts pointed to other considerations around battery production.

They include unethical and environmentally unsustainable mining practices, as well as a complex geopolitical nature of the supply chain, where countries do not want to rely on other nations for raw materials like cobalt and lithium, or the finished batteries.

Mining raw materials needed for battery production will likely be the last to get decarbonized, according to Crabtree.

Recycling and decarbonizing the grid

Today, very few of the spent battery cells are recycled.

Experts said that can change over time as raw materials needed for battery production are in limited supply, leaving firms with no choice but to recycle.

McKinsey’s Hannon outlined other reasons for companies to step by their recycling efforts. They include a regulatory environment where producers, by law, would have to deal with spent batteries — and disposing them could be more expensive.

“People who point to a lack of a recycling infrastructure as a problem aren’t recognizing that we don’t need extensive recycling infrastructure yet because the cars are so new, we’re not needing many back,” he said.

Most auto companies are already working to ensure they have significant recycling capacity in place before EVs start reaching the end of life over the next decade, he added.

It’s not silver bullet for climate change mitigation. Ideally, you also try to reduce the number of cars massively, and try to push things such as public transport
Florian Knobloch
Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance

Knobloch from Cambridge University said a lot of research is going into improving battery technology, to make them more environmentally sustainable and less reliant on scarce raw materials. More efforts are also needed in decarbonizing the electricity grid, he added.

“It’s very important that more renewable electricity generation capacity is added to the grid each year, than coal generation capacity,” Knobloch said.

“Nowadays, it’s much easier to build large scale solar or offshore wind compared to building new fossil fuel power plant. What we see is more renewable electricity coming into the grid all over the world.”

Still, he pointed out that generating electricity by using renewable sources will still emit greenhouse gases as there are emissions from producing the solar panels and wind turbines. “What we look at is how long will it take until the electricity grid is sufficiently decarbonized so that you see large benefit from electric vehicles,” Knobloch added.

Policies needed for societal change

Experts agree that a transition from gasoline-powered cars to EVs is not a panacea for the global fight against climate change.

It needs to go hand-in-hand with societal change that promotes greater use of public transportation and alternative modes of travel, including bicycles and walking.

Reducing the use of private vehicles requires plenty of funding and policy planning.

MIT’s Paltsev, who is also deputy director at the university’s joint program on the science and policy of global change, explained that there are currently about 1.2 billion fuel-powered cars on the road globally –that number is expected to increase to between 1.8 billion to 2 billion.

In comparison, there are only about 10 million electric vehicles currently.

People underestimate how many new cars have to be produced and how much materials will be needed to produce those electric vehicles, Paltsev said.

The International Energy Agency predicts that the number of electric cars, buses, vans and heavy trucks on roads is expected to hit 145 million by 2030.

Even if everyone drove EVs instead of gasoline-powered cars, there would still be plenty of emissions from the plug-in vehicles due to their sheer volume, according to Knobloch.

“So, it’s not silver bullet for climate change mitigation. Ideally, you also try to reduce the number of cars massively, and try to push things such as public transport,” he said. “Getting people away from individual car transport is as important.”

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Wheel-E Podcast: Micromobility Europe 2024, 80 MPH army e-bike, more

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Wheel-E Podcast: Micromobility Europe 2024, 80 MPH army e-bike, more

This week on Electrek’s Wheel-E podcast, we discuss the most popular news stories from the world of electric bikes and other nontraditional electric vehicles. This time, that includes all the cool stuff we saw at Micromobility Europe 2024, new low-cost Lectric XP Lite 2.0, an 80 MPH military e-bike, how Paris cleaned its air by kicking out cars, and more.

The Wheel-E podcast returns every two weeks on Electrek’s YouTube channel, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

As a reminder, we’ll have an accompanying post, like this one, on the site with an embedded link to the live stream. Head to the YouTube channel to get your questions and comments in.

After the show ends, the video will be archived on YouTube and the audio on all your favorite podcast apps:

We also have a Patreon if you want to help us to avoid more ads and invest more in our content. We have some awesome gifts for our Patreons and more coming.

Here are a few of the articles that we will discuss during the Wheel-E podcast today:

Here’s the live stream for today’s episode starting at 12:00 p.m. ET (or the video after 1:00 p.m. ET):

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BYD cuts prices on its best-selling Atto 3 electric SUV in Australia to rival Tesla

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BYD cuts prices on its best-selling Atto 3 electric SUV in Australia to rival Tesla

A new price war is fueling EV sales in Australia as the competition heats up to gain overseas market share. BYD launched its new Atto 3 electric SUV in Australia with several updates, including lower prices, as it looks to chip away at Tesla’s lead.

Chasing Tesla’s lead

Last month, electric vehicle sales in Australia were boosted by price cuts from leaders like Tesla and BYD.

According to the latest data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), 8,974 fully electric vehicles were sold in Australia last month. That number is up from the 6,194 EVs sold in April 2024 and 8,124 handed over last May.

The growth was enough for EVs to capture 8.1% of all vehicles sold in Australia last month, up from 7.7% in May 2023.

Tesla still leads with Model 3 sales reaching 1,958, surpassing its best-selling Model Y (1,609). Tesla has now sold 8,823 Model 3s and 9,610 Model Ys in Australia year-to-date.

Although Tesla has maintained a market share of over 60%, BYD is chipping away at its lead.

With 3,567 EVs sold in May, Tesla held a 40% share. BYD’s new Seal was the third best-selling EV last month, with 1,002 units sold, while the Atto 3 was fourth with 737. The growth bumped up BYD’s market share to 18%.

BYD-prices-Australia
BYD SEAL (Source: BYD)

BYD launches new Atto 3 with lower prices in Australia

The Atto 3 is still BYD’s best-selling EV in 2024, with 3,366 models sold, while the Seal is a close second at 3,306.

BYD believes 2024 will be a pivotal year as it rolls out new models and aims to take leadership in Australia’s EV market.

Following the new Seal, BYD launched a “major upgrade” for the Atto 3 Friday. BYD’s new Atto 3 features a 15.6″ screen (up from 12.8″). In addition to new features like added camping mode and karaoke, the new Atto 3 features lower prices.

The standard range Atto 3 now starts at AUD 44,449, while the Extended Range costs AUD 47,449 (before on-road costs). BYD’s new Atto 3 prices are down AUD 3,562 and the cheapest they have been so far, according to Australia’s Drive.

Powered by a 50 kWh battery and 150 kW electric motor, the new standard Atto 3 features up to 214 miles (345 km) WLTP range. The Long-Range model, with a 60 kWh battery, can travel up to 261 miles (420 km).

BYD Atto 3 vs Tesla Model Y Price
(AUD)
Range
(WLTP)
BYD Atto 3 Standard Range $44,449 214 miles (345 km)
BYD Atto 3 Long Range $47,449 261 miles (420 km)
Tesla Model Y RWD $55,900 283 miles (455 km)
Tesla Model Y AWD Long Range $69,900 331 miles (533 km)
Tesla Model Y AWD Performance $82,900 319 miles (514 km)
BYD Atto 3 vs Tesla Model Y prices and range in Australia

Meanwhile, Tesla’s RWD Model Y starts at AUD 55,900, with up to 283 miles (455 km) WLTP range. The Long-Range AWD model starts at AUD 69,900 with up to 331 miles (533 km) WLTP range.

Which one are you buying? The new BYD Atto 3? Or the Tesla Model Y? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Drive, BYD

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Tesla produces 1,300 Cybertrucks per week, moving from Foundations Series next quarter

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Tesla produces 1,300 Cybertrucks per week, moving from Foundations Series next quarter

Tesla confirmed that it managed to produce 1,300 Cybertrucks in a week and it is moving from its Foundations Series production run next quarter.

We haven’t had a lot of updates from Tesla about the Cybertruck production ramp.

Actually, the best one we got was from a recall, which confirmed that Tesla had produced just short of 4,000 Cybertrucks as of April.

Shortly after, Tesla confirmed that it achieved a production of 1,000 Cybertruck in a week in April.

We haven’t seen an update since, but we noted that Tesla seemed to be ramping up production based on sightings at Gigafactory Texas.

Yesterday, at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting, Tesla released a bit more information about the Cybertruck production ramp:

  • Elon Musk said Tesla recently produced a peak of 1,300 Cybertrucks in a week
  • Elon Musk said Tesla would move away from production Foundation Series Cybertrucks in Q3
  • Tesla said it aims to be at 2,500 Cybertrucks per week by the end of the year

This would currently put Tesla at a capacity of 65,000 Cybertrucks per year and looking to exist the year with an annual capacity of 125,000 units.

Tesla has previously stated that it aims to have a full capacity of 250,000 Cybertrucks, but it plans to achieve that next year.

Moving away from the Foundation Series would presumably mean that Tesla is going to stop bundling all options together for the Dual Motor and Cyberbeast. The automaker might also release new trims – though those weren’t expected until next year.

Electrek’s Take

The Foundation Series bundles push the Cybertruck price to $100,000. Despite the hype around the Cybertruck, there’s a limited market for trucks at over $100,000.

Moving away from the Foundation Series bundles should reduce the price a bit as the dual motor is actually supposed to start at $80,000.

It will also give us more clarity into the option pricing.

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