Quirks and Quarks

Do electric cars take more CO2 to build than they save?

EVs take a lot of CO2 to manufacture but should save more over a lifetime of use

EVs take a lot of CO2 to manufacture but should save more over a lifetime of use

Electric vehicles generate about 25 per cent more CO2 than the manufacture of gasoline powered vehicles largely die to the massive lithium batteries. (Getty images)

This week's question comes to us from John Stinner in Prince George, B.C. He asks:

Do electric car batteries take more CO2 to make than they save?

Olivier Trescases, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Toronto suggests that this is a very important question to answer given the projected increase in the use of electric vehicles in the coming years.

Trescases says there has been research to suggest that the amount of CO2 produced by the manufacture of an electric vehicle is 25 per cent greater than that generated in the manufacture of a gasoline vehicle.

The difference is largely due to the massive lithium battery required to power the vehicle.

In terms of CO2 emissions from driving, EV-related emissions depend on where the electricity comes from. In the United States, even considering the various sources of electricity, the total emission of CO2 over the lifetime of the vehicle is still 50 per cent less than the emissions from a gasoline-powered car.

In the future, that number will increase as more electricity is generated from wind and solar power.

As well, lithium batteries are likely to become smaller and more efficient, and will therefore generate less CO2.