Sunday 13 October 2019

Is it time we were told the bald facts about total EV emissions?

Why we need to know the '40 shades of green' involved in making an EV

EVs: 'what are the stats behind the stats?'
EVs: 'what are the stats behind the stats?'
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

It is difficult to get figures from many car makers about the level of total emissions involved in making an electric vehicle (EV).

I am prone to asking the question of automaker executives in private at global launches.

But it is usually of little avail.

Recently I summoned up the courage to ask it publicly (which is why I'm raising it here) at a launch.

The answer?

A near exasperated shrug of the shoulders, accompanied by body language that suggested frustration on the expert's part at such an 'impossible' question.

That was the word he used: "Impossible."

But why should it be?

Would it tarnish the 'green' image of EVs or something?

Or is it impossible to compute the myriad threads of inputs and calculate their impact?

If it is, will that always be the case?

And how come I don't have to ask for the 'low' emission data on a new electric car?

How come I can be provided with reams of statistics to show how great the new EVs are when compared with their petrol or diesel counterparts whose greenhouse and health-endangering emissions can be so minutely detailed?

Look, these are not ground-breaking or even original questions of mine (God forbid).

And maybe I am showing appalling ignorance in raising them. But I am struck by the apparent (stress apparent) absence and unavailability of real knowledge.

So I felt maybe it was time for me to raise the issue in my own way.

I think it should be a bit like being able to trace your food to its original source.

I'd certainly feel more reassured and confident.

The question is simple: What level of overall emissions are incurred in bringing an electric car to fruition?

To take just one aspect: what fuel and energy went into extracting the rare minerals that are vital to battery-pack elements? And what are the environmental impact and/or implications if any?

What physical, health conditions prevailed for the people providing their labour?

I'm sure you can think of a dozen more questions on that front?

And don't get me wrong here.

I am convinced electric is the way forward over the next couple of decades so I am not being negative or sensation seeking.

Neither am I so silly as to expect a perfectly clear and clean emission genealogy: of course there are implications and impacts.

All I'd want to know before parting with upwards of €30,000 for a new EV is: what are the stats behind the stats?

Let me put this another way.

If electric cars were not the way forward and merely represented an intrusion of another mode into our motoring world would it not be likely that the European Commission would insist on such top-line figures being submitted and available for public consumption?

I have a sneaking suspicion they would on the grounds of right-to-know.

Just like the new WLTP figures are demanded and published, for mostly fossil-fuel, cars at the moment.

We would (and should) be better informed in our decision making processes.

For example we should be able to decide if waiting two or three years to buy an even greener EV might result in fewer overall emissions when the manufacturing and running-cost data are published.

This keeps coming back to the one overriding point: surely we have a basic right to know?

Forget all about the running-cost differences that arise in emissions between coal-powered charging sources and those using solar or hydro derived electricity.

That is another day's work.

What I want to know is why can't we have the total production cost of an EV?

Is it beyond the ken of those who can produce the most detailed of figures in promoting their product (and perfectly entitled to do so)?

And is it beyond the ken and responsibility of the EU regulators to show the price we are paying to be able to say we have chosen an electric car.

Publish and be dammed (or praised), I say.

It should be compulsory if not this year, then next.

It is the least we consumers deserve.

Like good food produce we should be able to trace to the source or sources.

I know I am oversimplifying matters; getting such data might represent extremely hard work across a broad base.

But that shouldn't deter us.

I see where Volkswagen will be using blockchain, the technology behind various cryptocurrencies, to ensure more transparency and security in their supply chain.

We need lots more of that.

*What do you think?

Does it matter to you what it takes to produce and run an electric car?

Let us know: ecunningham@independent.ie

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