Beneath the hoods of millions of the clean electric cars rolling onto the world’s roads in the next few years will be a dirty battery.
Every major carmaker has plans for electric vehicles to cut greenhouse gas emissions, yet their manufacturers are, by and large, making lithium-ion batteries in places with some of the most polluting grids in the world.
The findings, among the more bearish ones around, show that while electric cars are emission-free on the road, they still discharge a lot of the carbon-dioxide that conventional cars do.
Just to build each car battery—weighing upwards of 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) in size for sport-utility vehicles—would emit up to 74 percent more C02 than producing an efficient conventional car if it’s made in a factory powered by fossil fuels in a place like Germany, according to Berylls’ findings.
For perspective, the average German car owner could drive a gas-guzzling vehicle for three and a half years, or more than 50,000 kilometers, before a Nissan Leaf with a 30 kWh battery would beat it on carbon-dioxide emissions in a coal-heavy country, Berylls estimates show.
“Electric cars will be better in every way, but of course, when batteries are made in a coal-based electricity system it will take longer” to surpass diesel engines, he said.
But electric cars aren’t as clean as they could be. Just switching to renewable energy for manufacturing would slash emissions by 65 percent, according to Transport & Environment.