Currently reading: Analysis: Polestar lifts the lid on lifetime EV emissions
Electric car maker has published real-world CO2 figures for its 2 SUV versus a petrol XC40
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4 mins read
28 September 2020

Polestar, Volvo’s EV spin-off brand, has detailed the lifetime climate impact of its new 2 fastback – claiming it’s “spearheading a movement for transparency throughout the automotive industry”.

As well as detailing the energy and CO2 produced in the manufacture of the 2 compared with a petrol-engined Volvo XC40, Polestar said it is planning to reveal more about the wider environmental impact of building electric vehicles.

Company boss Thomas Ingenlath said: “Car manufacturers have not been clear in the past with consumers on the environmental impact of their products. That’s not good enough. We need to be honest, even if it makes for uncomfortable reading.”

The firm’s analysis showed the 2 has a lower environmental impact over its lifetime than a petrol-engined XC40, but it also stated that “going green isn’t quite as simple as just buying an electric car”.

It added: “It’s tempting to assume that we can achieve a sustainable and emission-free future by simply getting everyone to drive electric cars. But the truth is a lot more complicated.”

Polestar says manufacturing a 2 creates 24 tonnes of CO2e (CO2 equivalents), compared with just 14 tonnes of CO2e to make a petrol-engined XC40. This extra CO2 is largely attributable to the production of the battery pack needed for the EV. Depending on the source of power used to charge the Polestar during its lifetime, the EV will eventually offset the XC40’s lower manufacturing CO2 footprint, becoming the ‘greener’ of the two cars.

There has been considerable controversy in the automotive industry about the ‘embedded energy’ in battery packs, with claims that manufacturing large batteries particularly results in a ‘carbon footprint’ that makes nonsense of claims that EVs are the energy-efficient future of motoring.

Over a lifetime of 125,000 miles, Polestar says, the XC40 (a petrol version rated at 163g/km of CO2) releases another 41 tonnes of CO2 through the use of fossil fuels, which is where the 2 EV starts to gain its advantage. Even so, the low-CO2 mileage required for the 2 to negate its greater production CO2e is much higher than you might imagine.

In an ideal world, with the Polestar charged using entirely renewable wind power, a driver would still need to travel 31,000 miles before the EV’s carbon footprint becomes smaller than the petrol XC40’s. This wind-powered scenario would involve just 0.4 tonnes of carbon being released over 125,000 miles of travel.

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If the 2 is charged from what Polestar calls the ‘European grid’ – the average electricity mix across 28 countries – the EV has to travel 50,000 miles before its lifetime carbon footprint is lower than the petrol XC40’s.

Clearly, the mix of wind and nuclear power across Europe significantly helps to reduce the CO2 load when recharging an EV. Polestar’s calculations, based on the average global energy mix, show it would take 70,000 miles before the 2 had a CO2 advantage over the petrol XC40.

The Polestar report considered only CO2 emissions from the XC40, saying “methane and nitrous oxide emissions (CH4 and N2O) are not included [because they] contribute to only a minor fraction of the total tailpipe GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from a petrol car”. That highlights just how clean a modern petrol engine can be in terms of air pollution.

Polestar isn’t limiting its examination of the EV business to just a carbon lifecycle calculation, noting that ethical battery manufacturing is also key. The firm said: “We work hard to ensure that the minerals we use in our batteries are mined responsibly, paying full respect to human rights and creating minimal pollution.”

As with related firm Volvo, Polestar is using technology to track cobalt through its supply chain to check the methods by which it’s mined.

The Chinese-owned Swedish brand is laying down a serious challenge to rival EV makers, not just in terms of revealing the energy used to make battery packs but also in promising future transparency in relation to mineral mining.

In a premium market space that trades almost entirely on environmental credentials, Polestar’s transparency pitch could give the brand a decisive advantage over rival car makers that cannot, or perhaps will not, release similarly detailed audits.

VW's CO2 claims for ID 3 and ID 4

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Volkswagen says production of both its ID 3 and new ID 4 electric cars is effectively carbon-neutral, because of a huge investment in its Zwickau factory, where both models are made.

The German plant is powered entirely by hydroelectric, wind and solar power, heating from the on-site powerplant is provided by natural gas and VW says it has minimised energy consumption in key areas.

But there’s a difference between ‘carbon-neutral’ production and ‘zero-carbon’ production, and VW notes that with the ID 3 and ID 4, it “compensates for unavoidable emissions through climate protection projects”.

As with the Polestar 2, the lifetime carbon footprint of VW’s ID models depends on where the power comes from to charge them, with the firm claiming they’re ‘net-CO2-neutral’ if powered entirely by renewable energy.

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15

28 September 2020

Nice, but that is only 2/3 of the life of the car. We are missing the figures for battery disposal and recycling... Where we can find the complete study?

28 September 2020

What about end of life for the tens of thousands extra deaths caused by diesel emissions.  Just read the who report

28 September 2020
jeby wrote:

Nice, but that is only 2/3 of the life of the car. We are missing the figures for battery disposal and recycling... Where we can find the complete study?

Battery packs on decent EVs should last at least 300-500,000 miles.

Most should outlast the car and be available to go into energy storage applications.

When they are finished with the batteries are very recyclable and contain lots of useful materials. They were built on a high capacity production line and can be un-built in the same manner. The costs of using recycled materials is lower than for using virgin materials and rightly its cost would be counted in the product it becomes next.

That their isn't currently massive resources to recycle at the moment is mostly a factor of a lack of cars to re-cycle.

28 September 2020

With the life of a electric car being 125,000 miles before battery replacement and therefore a uneconomic repair so scapped and using a petrol SUV as a base this is slightly bias.

With a petrol or diesel model, 250k is not uncommon and a diesel SUV would produce around 75% of a petrol SUV.  From my number crunch, over 250k a diesel SUV would produce 76t and an electric 78t allowing for the production of 2 electric vehicles.  

28 September 2020
chris1969 wrote:

With the life of a electric car being 125,000 miles before battery replacement and therefore a uneconomic repair so scapped and using a petrol SUV as a base this is slightly bias.

With a petrol or diesel model, 250k is not uncommon and a diesel SUV would produce around 75% of a petrol SUV.  From my number crunch, over 250k a diesel SUV would produce 76t and an electric 78t allowing for the production of 2 electric vehicles.  

Very true - but missing the big picture!Nobody who buys a new car keeps it for 125,000 miles. The fact that they move on before that point, means they may as well buy a petrol car.If you generously say they'll keep the car for 3 years, then get another EV - cumulatively they have pumped more than approx 50% more CO2 into the atmosphere than if they had just purchased a petrol new car.....Absolutely ridiculous. Not green.

And when you consider the majority of the people getting a Polestar 2 will keep it for 1 year, then move on to their next vehicle - the true unsustainability of EVs in their current form becomes clear.Yes, Polestar as a company are helping to green the fleet - good.It's the behaviour of those purchasing cars that needs to change.

28 September 2020
CarNut170 wrote:

chris1969 wrote:

With the life of a electric car being 125,000 miles before battery replacement and therefore a uneconomic repair so scapped and using a petrol SUV as a base this is slightly bias.

With a petrol or diesel model, 250k is not uncommon and a diesel SUV would produce around 75% of a petrol SUV.  From my number crunch, over 250k a diesel SUV would produce 76t and an electric 78t allowing for the production of 2 electric vehicles.  

Very true - but missing the big picture!Nobody who buys a new car keeps it for 125,000 miles. The fact that they move on before that point, means they may as well buy a petrol car.If you generously say they'll keep the car for 3 years, then get another EV - cumulatively they have pumped more than approx 50% more CO2 into the atmosphere than if they had just purchased a petrol new car.....Absolutely ridiculous. Not green.

And when you consider the majority of the people getting a Polestar 2 will keep it for 1 year, then move on to their next vehicle - the true unsustainability of EVs in their current form becomes clear.Yes, Polestar as a company are helping to green the fleet - good.It's the behaviour of those purchasing cars that needs to change.

Their study assumes a 125k millage, by no means is this a reliable estimate of the lifetime of an EV.

Many of the early Tesla Model S's have run to 500k miles plus though usually with a motor change. As a fleet the average car which reaches 200k miles has more than 85% battery capacity.

The later Model S's and Model 3s are designed to last around 500k.

For reference Tesla makes a Model 3 for 14 tonnes of CO2 which is basically the same as an equivalent sized ICE car.

28 September 2020

No Tesla battery has lasted 500k miles. 1000 full charge x 300 miles real range is the most you can hope before you can expect serious troubles with the battery. That's a lot of miles but batteries also deplete over time that's why dTesla doesn't guarantee its batteries for more than 8yrs (down to 70% range). All high mileage Teslas have done so in relative short period of time, run by rental companies or fan boys. The Jury is still out for a 10yrs old car that is still worth driving... Beyond 15yrs, regardless of mileage, your battery pack will be spent and the avg user drive about 8k/yr. So 125k miles looks like a reasonable life time for your BEV. Who's going to replace a battery pack costing £1000s on a 15yr old banger even with "only" 125k on the clock? All you can hope is that makes will provide updated, cheaper packs but you're going to buy a new car with the last tech, aren't you?

28 September 2020
chris1969 wrote:

With the life of a electric car being 125,000 miles before battery replacement and therefore a uneconomic repair so scapped and using a petrol SUV as a base this is slightly bias.

Batteries are proving to go a lot longer than 125k and any replaced battery will have a second life long in a less strenuous environment before being recycled.  There are EV taxis out there with 300k+ miles on them and still very usuable.

28 September 2020

This is good from Volvo. I'd also be interested in seeing their predictions in the long term. What benefits will come when EV production increases; any benefits of scale? Also as Jeby alludes to; when batteries are recycled does this reduce the environmental impact of second generation electric cars?

28 September 2020

I applaud Polestar so much for this: a consumer products company being more transparent and clear than most governments, the EU included. Voters should be demanding a tax system that actually incentivises lower emissions, even if that impacts crude measures of economic growth. 

As has been pointed out by smarter people than me, climate change will cost us all, so focusing solely on annual GDP is short sighted and costly. And taxing well maintained older petrol cars off the road is environmentally irresponsible. Extending the life of, say, an older BMW 530i from 125k to 200k miles could make for the greenest vehicle possible.

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