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Volvo says electric car making emissions are 70% HIGHER than petrol

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 04/11/2021 Rob Hull For
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Volvo has said that emissions from the production of electric cars are far higher than a petrol equivalent, as it called on world leaders and energy providers to significantly boost investments in green energy to reduce the carbon footprint of plug-in models.

The Swedish car maker said that over a car's lifetime the electric version will become greener overall, though this will only be achieved after covering between 30,000 and 68,400 miles - taking between four and nine years for the average UK motorist. 

The claims were made to coincide with the COP26 climate summit taking place in Glasgow and as part of a revolutionary new transparency approach adopted by the brand, which includes publishing its latest 'Life Cycle Assessment' report for the pure-electric £57,400 C40 Recharge.

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It shows that greenhouse gas emissions during production of the electric vehicle are nearly 70 per cent higher than a petrol model, which is mainly due to the carbon intensity of battery and steel production, as well as from the increased share of aluminium in the plug-in car.

But Volvo said as an EV the C40 Recharge has a far lower carbon footprint than its comparable petrol version during the 'use phase', though suggests it would take a prolonged period of ownership before it offsets its higher emissions from production. 

When charged with clean energy, such as wind power, the lifecycle CO2 footprint of the new electric SUV comes down to approximately 27 tonnes of CO2, compared with 59 tonnes for an XC40 compact SUV powered by a combustion engine.  

However, when drivers charge their C40 Recharge using an average global energy mix (which is generated for around 60 per cent from fossil fuels), the car’s lifecycle CO2 tonnage can increase to as much as 50 tonnes, significantly reducing the environmental gains versus a traditionally powered car. 

Volvo estimated that an electric Volvo C40 needs to be driven around 68,400 miles to have a lower total carbon footprint than its petrol equivalent, if the former is powered by the current global electricity mix.

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Based on the latest UK driving statistics, average annual mileage is 7,400 miles. That means it could take nine years of ownership before the EV is greener than a car with an internal combustion engine, Volvo suggests. 

However, it could offset its higher production emissions in only 30,000 miles (four years of driving) if charged with greener wind-generated electricity. 

Video: Volvo CTO on 1st fossil-free steel vehicle (Bloomberg)

EV sales 'will exceed diesels in 2022'

Rising demand for greener cars means more pure-electric and plug-in hybrid cars will join Britain’s roads in 2021 than during the whole of the last decade, according to the latest forecast from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

A total of 271,962 new battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) were registered between 2010 and 2019. The trade body now forecasts that businesses and consumers will take up around 287,000 of the latest zero-emission capable cars during 2021 alone – around one in six new cars bought. 

Based on current forecasts, BEV sales are also expected to exceed those of diesel for the full year 2022.

In fact, BEV registrations have already risen above diesel - and mild-hybrid diesels - in the last two months.

In October, 16,155 BEVs entered the market compared to just 11,530 diesels. 

The rise in electric car demand is even more remarkable given that 2021 is expected to be a relatively weak year for new car registrations, which are down some 30 per cent on the average recorded over the past decade, mostly due to semiconductor shortages restricting production. 

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said 'massive investment' by industry - as well as long standing government incentives - have seen us go from just 188 new plug-in cars in 2010, to almost 300,000 in 2021.

'To achieve net zero by the desired date, however, uptake rates must continue to grow,' he went on. 

'This requires ongoing incentives to help consumers make the switch and significant investment in public charging infrastructure. 

'Backed by the ingenuity and innovation of the automotive sector, we can then deliver zero-emission mobility that is accessible and affordable for all.' 

Experts have disputed - and criticised - the Swedish maker's estimations, claiming it will take just 16,000 miles - just over two years of driving - for the electric C40 to overtake a petrol equivalent in terms of emissions - then pull well ahead beyond that point. 

For a car manufacturer to make such bold statements that somewhat undermine the green credentials of its new - and expensive - vehicle is brave or foolish, depending on which side of the EV-debate fence you sit.

Volvo says the aim of its new reveal-all reports is to encourage decision makers to make improvements so that it and other electric cars can 'deliver on their true potential in terms of climate benefit'.

It said that if this is done then EVs built and charged using clean renewable energy will have huge potential CO2 reductions.

The Swedish company - now owned by Chinese group Geely - has already outlined its aims to become a fully electric car maker by 2030.

Part of its plan is to roll out a new family of pure electric cars in the coming years, in one of the industry’s most ambitious electrification schedules. 

This includes becoming a climate-neutral company by 2040, as it works to consistently cut carbon emissions across its business.

Håkan Samuelsson, Chief Executive of Volvo Cars, said: 'We made a conscious strategic decision to become a fully electric car maker and an industry leader, but we can’t make the transition to climate neutrality alone.

'We need governments and energy firms around the globe to step up their investments in clean energy capacity and related charging infrastructure, so fully electric cars can truly fulfil their promise of cleaner mobility.' 

The C40 Recharge Lifecycle Assessment Report outlined that production of aluminium and the Li-ion battery modules have relative high carbon footprints, with a contribution of approximately 30 per cent each to the total footprint of all materials and components in the vehicle.

Volvo says it is already taking active steps to address these emissions, including through planned collaborations to develop fossil-free steel and with its battery suppliers to produce batteries using 100 per cent renewable energy.


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The company says it is seeking to reduce the lifecycle carbon footprint per average car by 40 per cent between 2018 and 2025, including through reducing carbon emissions in its supply chain by 25 per cent by 2025.

In terms of its own operations, it wants to be able to achieve climate-neutral manufacturing by 2025. 

Its European plants run on 100 per cent clean electricity, while its Torslanda factory in Sweden is already fully climate neutral. Elsewhere in the world, its Chengdu and Daqing sites in China are also powered by climate-neutral electricity. 

Volvo also confirmed its sales of electrified cars is increasing.  

Sales of Volvo Cars’ fully electric models reached 3.1 per cent of the overall sales, 18,261 cars, for the first 10 months of the year and increased to 5.6 per cent, 2,841 cars, for the month of October. 

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