Electric cars don‘t burn fuel and therefore don‘t have direct CO2 emissions, but are they the solution towards clean mobility?
This question is a complicated one since there is no clear answer and the differences across the industry are huge. The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) marks the battery electric vehicles (BEV) as very clean, but this depends on a lot of factors.
Besides the local emissions of BEVs the whole lifecycle must be integrated in the calculation. It begins with the source of all the materials needed, then the production of the car and all its components play a major role, the usage and its duration as well as finally the recycling possibilities of the used cars. All these stages are indirectly influencing the CO2 footprint of a BEV depending a lot on production sites and the energy mix used.
The ICCT labeled electric cars in the EU, USA, China and Indian market as the cleaner vehicles looking at the whole lifecycle. Apparently two third of greenhouse gases are economized with middle sized electric cars. The data used was based on the EU guidelines in 2021. Two third is a quite impressive number but as mentioned this is based on EU guidelines. Unfortunately the EU market is comparably small and looking at the whole world one of the most developed.
Key point will be the energy mix used during production but especially during the usage to load the battery. According to the BMWI (German ministry for economics and energy) only 14% of the total used energy was coming from renewable sources. The rest is in need for fossil fuels like mineral oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power. As long as this mix hasn’t changed significantly emissions of electric cars are foremost a shift towards the energy supplier. How Germany as a country, the Europe as a continent and the whole world will manage a shift towards renewable energies and still covering all the energy needs stays a huge challenge and remains to be seen.
Why is this relevant for the Generation Z?
To succeed the energy shift roughly 5 times more energy is needed which consequently means we will have to massively reduce our energy consumption. That electric cars are a very good and eco-friendly alternative to combustion engines is first and foremost good news. This means that also our generation won’t have to renounce individual mobility. But it will surely influence the usage and ownership of cars. Combined with effects like urbanization and non-ownership culture from our point of view not every combustion engine on the road today has to be replaced by an electric car.
What does it mean for the automotive industry?
Essentially it means that all aspects of the car manufacturing process have to be looked at with an eco-friendly eye. The responsibility of the whole supply chain is giant regarding the footprint aspect of a manufactured car. Especially for European manufacturers it will be a challenge to remain competitive players in the market underlying more severe regulations than other regions.
Regarding the Generation Z’s needs it could mean for the automotive industry that less cars are used for a very long period, but shared vehicles will have to be replaced every 2-3 years. In the development of cars and its material usage this could result in a focus on recycling possibilities to reduce costs and the greenhouse gas balance sheet.
Written by: Maxime Schönberg