Several statements in an article published in The Australian (June 10, 2011) featuring the headline “Electric cars may not be so green after all, says British study” and the referenced study itself contain many facts that are highly suspect and incorrect about Electric Cars.
According to the article first published in The Australian newspaper, and further copied and disseminated worldwide via the blogosphere didn’t even properly quote some of the most important figures and statements from the British advisory group LowCVP (Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership) study such as EVs “offer a lower carbon footprint over the full life cycle”.
A few major faults in the study according to Ken Burridge (Editor-in-Chief of EV.com) “is that it failed to consider the overall carbon impact of electric and hybrid cars (and their components) if non-fossil fuels were used by their manufacturing facilities. Also the study didn’t factor in all the carbon costs associated with an ICE powered vehicle.” Some of the missing carbon costs include the carbon required to produce and transport all the components required in an ICE vehicle, which are very different (the EV uses significantly less parts by several orders of magnitude). Perhaps this is understandable as it would be a horrible nightmare to try and calculate the CO2 costs to produce all the components required for the ICE car that aren’t needed by an electric car such as: The ICE engine, engine control unit, radiator, coolant hoses, coolant reservoir, induction system, fuel tank, fuel hoses, fuel pump, exhaust system, heat insulation, and consumables such as: fuel, oil, belts, brake pads, air filters, and spark plugs etc. Editors Note: EVs typically use regenerative braking systems so they don’t require near as many brake pads as their ICE counterparts.
The article and the study also failed to consider all the options available to the EV when it comes to electric fuel sources and distribution costs such as a solar panel on the owner’s garage roof would have almost no additional transportation based carbon costs once installed, especially when compared with the: prospecting, extracting, refining and transportation of crude oil to specialized distribution points (fuel stations) even before the gasoline or diesel fuel is put in a vehicle to be burned.
In addition the author evidently doesn’t don’t know about the 750 Toyota RAV4 EVs that have been on the road since 1997-2003 and a handful of Ford Ranger EVs produced between 1998-2002 in California that are still functioning just fine (they have yet to require battery replacement), which is almost 15 years old. Statements in the Australian article such as EVs are “expected to need a replacement battery after a few years” is very misleading to the average reader and not based on any sort of established facts or history! That fact makes the author’s factoring in the carbon cost of manufacturing the EV’s batteries more than once to not be justified which would negate the main point of the article.
It is totally correct to consider the carbon cost over the entire life of the vehicle. However, no matter what method is used to compare an ICE to a EV–the electric car clearly beats the ICE if any fossil free energy is used to either manufacture or power it. The bottom line when it comes to any study of carbon and vehicles is how much carbon is consumed in everything related to it including all components not just the batteries, which is what the British study and this particular article seemed to focus. What also needs to be considered and was also not factored into the British study is that even if an EV should require replacement batteries at some point, the carbon cost of using recycled or reconditioned batteries would be significantly lower than producing new ones.
We here at TheEV.biz would have expected a car guy such as Ben Webster to have researched his article better. However, after a little research of our own the answer perhaps became a little more clear. The Australian is just one of many newspapers and TV stations owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which is an organization that has been caught (this particular article being a case in point) slanting the news or having a negative news bias when it comes to: electric cars, alternative energy, and climate change etc. That bias becomes more understandable when it’s realized that a large percentage of News Corporation’s advertising revenue comes from some of the world’s largest companies. Fact: More than half of the ten largest companies with respect to revenue generation are heavily invested in a fossil fuel based world economy.
CNN contributor, Green journalist, photographer, author and activist. Mr Burridge’s travels have taken him to over 30 countries and 300+ major cities. He is originally from the USA, but has been residing in Australia for the last six years. Connect to Ken Burridge on: Twitter, facebook, or website