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Financial Times Story About EVs Gets Debunked With the Same Sources

The Financial Times has a team for visual storytelling. Their latest story tried to answer how green electric cars really are, and the conclusion was not very positive. According to the business newspaper, it will take 30 years for them to be cleaner than combustion-engined cars, which is not true. A Dutch EV researcher famous for debunking stories like this on Twitter did that again in an embarrassing way for FT: he did so with the same sources used for the story.
ICCT Study Shows EVs Pollute Less Even With Dirty Electricity Sources 7 photos
ICCT Study Shows EVs Pollute Less Even With Dirty Electricity SourcesICCT Study Shows EVs Pollute Less Even With Dirty Electricity SourcesICCT Study Shows EVs Pollute Less Even With Dirty Electricity SourcesICCT Study Shows EVs Pollute Less Even With Dirty Electricity SourcesICCT Study Shows EVs Pollute Less Even With Dirty Electricity SourcesICCT Study Shows EVs Pollute Less Even With Dirty Electricity Sources
Auke Hoekstra praised the FT visual storytelling team for the nice graphic work but not for their information use. When the story used the findings of a Chinese study to say EVs emit 60% more carbon in their production, the researcher checked the study. It indeed says that is what happens in China but mentions that an EV emits only 20% more in the U.S. Hoekstra questioned why FT did not mention that and went a little further.

According to the researcher, the Chinese study was based on 2015 data. Six years ago, battery production emitted 200 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kWh. In 2021, that fell to 75 kg per kWh – 62.5% less. In other words, the Chinese study is outdated.

The FT story then says that mining for raw materials is a problem, which is correct. However, the only negative effect numerically presented is that mining 1 ton of lithium emits 5 to 15 tons of CO2. This would be equivalent to the carbon emissions of the electricity used by one to two houses in the U.S. for a year.

Hoekstra puts that information under the proper perspective: 1 ton of lithium is enough to make about 100 battery packs. The researcher then mentions that the lithium in an EV would equate to the emissions of the electricity consumption of a house for a week or even less.

A little further, FT states that battery pack building emissions represent a third of all the CO2 emissions in making an entire EV. Hoekstra argues that this would invalidate that manufacturing EVs emits 60% more than with a combustion-engined car. If you do not consider the battery pack, EVs emit less carbon dioxide because the electric powertrain is much lighter than combustion engines.

The final mistake made by FT concentrates on an ICCT study about which we also wrote on July 21, 2021. Ironically, the study was meant to demonstrate how EVs are cleaner than ICE vehicles even when they are charged from the most pollutant sources of electricity.

FT used its information but chose a 2018 European Environment Agency report to say that EVs are only 17% to 30% cleaner than combustion-engined vehicles in Europe from manufacturing until the end of their lifecycles. The ICCT study shows they are 70% cleaner.

If you happen to have read the FT story or know people who have, show them this article and Hoekstra’s thread on Twitter. There’s plenty to criticize about EV manufacturing without having to appeal to outdated information. Addressing the correct negative points is the only way to move forward and let the past rest in peace.



 
 
 
 
 

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