New Study Proves Not All EVs Are Kind To The Environment

Electric Vehicles / 25 Comments

The Hummer EV is a bigger polluter than many gas-powered cars.

Across the world, governments and environmental agencies are lobbying for the eventual death of internal combustion. Electric vehicles are being touted as an eco-friendly alternative and, in many cases, this is true. Battery-powered vehicles don't emit toxic exhaust emissions and the swift uptake of EVs in certain markets has led to improved air quality.

While vehicles such as the Chevrolet Bolt are kind to the environment, a study has found that not all electric vehicles are built with conservation in mind. A report compiled by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) shows the ostentatious GMC Hummer EV to be a bigger polluter than gas-powered cars. How did they get to this conclusion? Allow us to explain.

As the ACEEE reports, the United States still relies on fossil fuels to generate electricity. In fact, 60% of the nation's power is gleaned from "dirty" energy. With this in mind, a compact Bolt spews 92 grams of carbon dioxide per mile traveled "when accounting for emissions from the electric grid."

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That's a relatively low figure and, overall, the Bolt is better for the environment than ICE-powered vehicles. But it's a different story for the Hummer EV. Over the same distance, the hefty behemoth emits a whopping 341 grams per mile - more than a gas-powered Chevrolet Malibu (327 grams). But it's so much more than the amount of energy needed to move the 9,063 lb brute.

Manufacturing a new EV takes a toll on the environment, too. The process required to build EV batteries (mining, processing, etc.) emits greenhouse gases. Larger vehicles such as the Hummer EV require bigger batteries to lug all that weight around and provide a reasonable driving range.

"Mining the minerals used for batteries has a significant impact on the environment and can have negative social impacts, including the well-documented human rights abuses surrounding the mining of cobalt, an important mineral for many EV batteries," reads the report.

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The author of the report suggests policymakers should address the way in which EVs are viewed. Not all electric vehicles are made equal and therefore shouldn't be treated that way. "Current greenhouse gas standards for vehicles do not include the upstream emissions from EVs, missing an opportunity to incentivize greater efficiency, save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

One could look at the Hummer EV from a different perspective, though. As mentioned by the study, the original Hummer H1 discharged a whopping 889 grams of CO2 per mile; there will always be demand for large SUVs and pickup trucks and this reduction in emissions shows that manufacturers are trying - but not quite hard enough, it seems.

Audi, for example, has looked at ways to up-cycle batteries no longer suited to automotive needs. A pilot project in Germany has seen some batteries used as energy storage for EV chargers. Another brilliant initiative has seen used electric motors used in rickshaws.

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Getting back to the study, the author notes that weight isn't the only factor that plays a role in higher EV emissions. "EV efficiency, much like the efficiency of gasoline-powered vehicles, is largely affected by the efficiency of the motor and drivetrain as well as the weight and aerodynamics of the vehicle." While smaller battery-powered cars tend to be more efficient, there are some surprising entrants mentioned in the study.

Despite their size, weight, and performance both the Tesla Model 3 and the Lucid Air Grand Touring are more efficient than the Bolt and Mustang Mach-E. The full study goes into great detail and, if you're interested, it's well worth the read. It has provided CarBuzz with incredible insights. Many believe that EVs (no matter their size or heft) are better for the environment and, as this study claims, that's not always necessarily the case.

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