Green NCAP has released its first life cycle analysis (LCA) figures for 61 cars. The figures include the total amount of greenhouse gases and primary energy demand required for the extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, distribution of cars, along with their running, recycling and final disposal.
The new Green NCAP study, which used a methodology developed by Joanneum Research and was peer-reviewed by the Paul Scherrer Institute, found that greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) for electric cars are generally lower than non-electric cars. However, this is based on the average renewable energy mix from 27 European countries, including the UK.
The reality behind this average is that a country with a high amount of energy coming from non-renewables can mean an electric car is actually worse for the environment than a petrol or diesel car.
In contrast, running an electric car in a country with a high amount of energy from renewables means it has significantly less impact on the environment compared to its petrol and diesel counterparts, placing more pressure on governments around the world to prioritise energy from renewables.
Green NCAP has also calculated primary energy demand (PED) as part of its LCA analysis, and the results are much less clear cut - it found electric cars have a comparable PED to other fuel types of car.
Taking the lifetime of a car into account, it's electric cars that have the lowest amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
However, while electric cars have zero tailpipe emissions, a large quantity of greenhouse gases (GHG) is created while producing them - more so than a petrol or diesel vehicle. There is a significant GHG cost to producing the high voltage battery that an EV requires.
Add to that the estimated GHG emitted in supplying the electrical energy over 240,000km (approximately 150,000 miles, or 9,320 miles annually for 16 years), and the life cycle emissions are actually fairly close to some of its combustion-engine counterparts.
These are the 15 cars from Green NCAP’s study with the lowest GHG emissions, and the five with the highest.
|Rank||Car||Fuel type||Class/size||LCA - greenhouse gas emissions (g/km)|
|1||Fiat 500e||Electric||City car||119.1|
|2||Hyundai Kona||Electric||Small SUV||130.8|
|3||Renault Zoe||Electric||Small car||131.8|
|4||Volkswagen ID.3||Electric||Medium car||134.4|
|5||Nissan Leaf e+||Electric||Medium car||142.2|
|6||Lexus UX 300e||Electric||Small SUV||147.8|
|7||Toyota Prius PHEV||Petrol PHEV||Large car||163.3|
However, when compared against similar sized SUVs, the Ford Mustang Mach-e has significantly less emissions than its closest sized car in the same study, the Ford Kuga. It is also significantly better than the Mitsubishi Outlander, which is estimated to produce just over 100g/km of greenhouse gasses more than the Mach-e.
It might seem obvious to say that when more of your electricity comes from renewable sources, the greener an electric car becomes - but the difference really is staggering.
Taking the as an example (pictured above), Green NCAP found that if you are driving and charging this car in Sweden - the country with the highest share of electricity from renewables - the GHG required to generate the electricity is so low that it is substantially lower than all forms of combustion car.
Whereas in Poland, which in Green NCAP’s study has the highest amount of electricity generated from burning coal, an electric vehicle will actually have higher life cycle GHG emissions than a petrol or diesel car, making it much worse for the environment.
As a hypothetical, Green NCAP also points out in its study that should electricity come from purely renewable sources, the electricity required to keep the ID.3 driving for 150,000 miles would be so small, the total greenhouse gasses over the vehicle’s lifetime would be half that of a non-electric car.
Green NCAP plans to launch a tool toward the end of May, which will let you compare the impact of running cars in different countries and look at the predicted energy mix in the future.
An important part of the LCA calculation is the PED; the sum of all primary energy extracted to provide the transportation, including coal, oil, natural gas, hydro energy, wind, waste, solar and nuclear energy.
But while the PED is also strongly impacted by the size and mass of the vehicle, and the size of the high voltage battery in EVs, Green NCAP has found that EVs and combustion cars are relatively comparable.
This table shows the five cars with the lowest PED and the five with the highest.
|Rank||Car||Fuel type||Class/size||LCA - Primary Energy Demand (kWh/km)|
|1||Fiat 500e||Electric||City car||0.67|
|2||Skoda Octavia||Diesel||Large estate||0.69|
|3||Toyota Prius PHEV||Petrol PHEV||Large car||0.69|
|4||Peugeot 208||Diesel||Small car||0.70|
|5||Toyota Yaris||Petrol full hybrid||Small car||0.73|
|57||Land Rover Discovery Sport||Diesel||Large SUV||1.17|
|58||Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV||Petrol PHEV||Mid-size SUV||1.22|
Green NCAP say it’s still too early to produce an overall LCA rating, and is currently sticking to simply publishing its figures.
It should be noted that Green NCAP’s LCA looks primarily at greenhouse gasses and energy, but currently does not include environmental effects of pollutant emissions like oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter. Consequential impacts like acidification, ozone formation, and toxicity to humans are not considered.
The life cycle impact of a transport system on water demand, pollution of water or soil are also not yet included in the assessment.