A far-reaching new study of the life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from passenger cars, including SUVs, draws sharp and meticulous distinctions between the climate impacts of battery and fuel cell electric vehicles on one hand and combustion vehicles on the other.

Global-LCA-passenger-cars-fig1-jul2021

The detailed findings can be summarized straightforwardly. Only battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) powered by renewable electricity can achieve the kind of deep reductions in GHG emissions from transportation that comport with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming well below 2 °C. There is no realistic pathway to that goal that relies on combustion-engine vehicles, including hybrids of any sort.

The study, carried out by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), analyzes present and projected future GHG emissions attributable to every stage in the life cycles of both vehicles and fuels, from extracting and processing raw materials through refining and manufacture to operation and eventual disposal. The analysis was performed separately and in depth for the European Union, the United States, China, and India, and captured the differences among those markets, which together account for about 70% of new car sales worldwide.

“One important result of the analysis is to show that life-cycle emissions trends are similar in all four regions, despite the differences among them in vehicle mix, grid mix, and so on. Already for cars registered today, BEVs have better relative GHG emissions performance everywhere than conventional vehicles,” said ICCT Deputy Director Rachel Muncrief.

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