The only way to offset these emissions is to drive your EV for longer.
If we told you a decade ago that Ford would release two electric vehicles - one badged as a Mustang and one being an F-150 truck - you wouldn't have believed us. But here we are in 2021 and both the Mustang Mach-E and the F-150 Lightning exist. Each is proof that electric powertrains are no longer just lauded for zero tailpipe emissions but they are good enough to be used in almost any vehicle type.
However, the specific construction requirements of EVs have a downside in terms of carbon emissions that Simon Powell from global thematic research firm Jefferies has termed "embedded carbon". This puts them at a disadvantage relative to an equivalent gas vehicle.
Due to the extra weight of EVs, they are at a disadvantage when they leave the factory. Their bodies contain more steel, the battery packs weigh a lot, and systems like the brakes have to be reinforced to cope. All of this increases the rate at which carbon is released when EVs are manufactured relative to gas-powered vehicles.
"To gain the environmental dividend that governments are looking for, users are going to have to keep them longer [and] drive them further than they may have done with a conventional internal combustion energy vehicle," said Powell when speaking to CNBC's Street Signs Asia. No specific indication was given on how much further an EV would need to be driven to offset the carbon emissions during production.
Considering that EVs are expected to get even more affordable thanks to more appealing incentives, many consumers buying these vehicles are also enjoying the peace of mind that theoretically comes with driving a less polluting car that doesn't use gas. However, Powell's claims indicate that we aren't quite there yet and we may not be for some time to come.
"The way this whole thing gets solved is greener steel," said Powell. "The use of hydrogen in the manufacturing process for steel, as well, is something to look at."
Powell also suggested that improving battery technology with more energy-dense cells will help to decrease the weight of EVs, thereby decarbonizing the sector. Right now, though, that Tesla Model 3 or Ford Mustang Mach-E may not be as green as they seem.