The majority of previous studies examining life cycle greenhouse gas (LCGHG) emissions of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have focused on efficiency-oriented vehicle designs with limited battery capacities. However, two dominant trends in the US BEV market make these studies increasingly obsolete: sales show significant increases in battery capacity and attendant range and are increasingly dominated by large luxury or high-performance vehicles. In addition, an era of new use and ownership models may mean significant changes to vehicle utilization, and the carbon intensity of electricity is expected to decrease. Thus, the question is whether these trends significantly alter our expectations of future BEV LCGHG emissions.
To answer this question, three archetypal vehicle designs for the year 2025 along with scenarios for increased range and different use models are simulated in an LCGHG model: an efficiency-oriented compact vehicle; a high performance luxury sedan; and a luxury sport utility vehicle. While production emissions are less than 10% of LCGHG emissions for today’s gasoline vehicles, they account for about 40% for a BEV, and as much as two-thirds of a future BEV operated on a primarily renewable grid. Larger battery systems and low utilization do not outweigh expected reductions in emissions from electricity used for vehicle charging. These trends could be exacerbated by increasing BEV market shares for larger vehicles. However, larger battery systems could reduce per-mile emissions of BEVs in high mileage applications, like on-demand ride sharing or shared vehicle fleets, meaning that trends in use patterns may countervail those in BEV design.
Key words: EVs, Batteries, LCA, Carbon footprint, Electric mobility, Shared mobility