AbstractAlthough battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are climate-friendly alternatives to internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), an important but often ignored fact is that the climate mitigation benefits of BEVs are usually delayed. The manufacture of BEVs is more carbon-intensive than that of ICEVs, leaving a greenhouse gas (GHG) debt to be paid back in the future use phase. Here we analyze millions of vehicle data from the Chinese market and show that the GHG break-even time (GBET) of China’s BEVs ranges from zero (i.e., the production year) to over 11 years, with an average of 4.5 years. 8% of China’s BEVs produced and sold between 2016 and 2018 cannot pay back their GHG debt within the eight-year battery warranty. We suggest enhancing the share of BEVs reaching the GBET by promoting the effective substitution of BEVs for ICEVs instead of the single-minded pursuit of speeding up the BEV deployment race.
Published: June 23, 2023