Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Carbon Breakeven Point for an EV is 2 Years in the US

 This shouldn't be an unusual point. EVs require a lot more minerals to produce (lithium, copper, etc), and the total embodied carbon of an EV is greater than that of an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle *on day 1*. However, moving forward, the ICE will burn gasoline or diesel, and the EV will "burn" the blended carbon intensity of the grid. If that is entirely renewables, then the carbon intensity is zero. If it is a mix of coal/gas/hydro/renewables (as the grid is), then there will be some associated emissions.

BloombergNEF (New Energy Finance) published, in March, some really interesting analysis looking at the breakeven points and determined that the number is 2 years in the US, today, and will be between 1-4 years for most markets in 2030, by projecting future energy mix. In all cases, as the electricity grid decarbonizes, then EVs get cleaner.

I say this because I just returned from a wonderful dinner in Houston with senior people at traditional energy companies, and the comment came up that EVs have a negative carbon value - ie, they use more carbon at the beginning, and *never* breakeven. This is a popular distortion of reality, and I told the group that the breakeven was 4 years, when in actuality, it is less.

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