Emissions Analytics: mass adoption of hybrids, rather than low-volume BEVs most effective for cutting CO2 now, meeting 2030 targets; best use of limited resource
Emissions Analytics, a leading independent specialist for the scientific measurement of real-world emissions, suggests that mass adoption of hybrid vehicles, rather than low-volume take-up of full BEVs, is the most effective solution to cutting CO2 now and also in meeting 2030 emission targets.
Of all electrification strategies, full BEVs currently offer the least effective CO2 reduction per kWh of battery size, according to the analysis by the firm: 21 times worse than mild hybrids and 14 times worse than full hybrids.
With automotive battery capacity currently scarce, expensive and suffering supply problems, the deployment of this limited resource is critical to maximizing CO2 reduction, Emissions Analytics says. With tardy consumer adoption of BEVs and slow infrastructure roll-out compounded by concerns around an economical supply of batteries, it is essential to find the fastest, most efficient way to reduce CO2 now.
One of our biggest challenges is fleet turnover, with vehicles staying on the road typically for up to 12 years. It means that refreshing the entire fleet is a very slow process. Given reservations about current BEVs, we require an alternative that will have a more immediate impact. Due to CO2’s long life in the atmosphere, a small change now is far better than a large change in the future. We need to optimize the use of the industry’s available battery capacity to facilitate a critical early reduction.—Nick Molden, CEO of Emissions Analytics
Through extensive real-world testing of electrified vehicles, Emissions Analytics has found that hybrids, whether in gasoline or diesel form, offer the highest CO2 reduction per kWh across all electrified powertrains.
Using mild, full and plug-in hybrid real-world emissions test data from both European and US vehicles, Emissions Analytics compared hybrids with their internal combustion engine equivalents. Using its standardized on-road cycle, the company determined the average CO2 reduction from hybridization was 23% for the EU and 34% for the US, with an average of 30% across all pairings.
Emissions Analytics then calculated the distance-specific CO2 reduction per unit of battery size (capacity), in g/km/kWh, for mild, full, plug-in hybrids and BEVs.
The results indicated that mild hybrids are the most efficient way to reduce CO2, given limited global battery capacity. With a reduction of 73.9g/km/kWh, the technology was a clear favorite, with full hybrids coming in second at 50.5g/km/kWh.
Due to their disproportionately large batteries, BEVs were the worst of the available options, with a mere 3.5g/km/kWh reduction. The size of BEV batteries tends to be large to accommodate infrequent, extreme use cases—such as high-mileage trips, not often undertaken by average drivers—and do not make the best uses of limited supply.
The calculations did not take into account the upstream CO2 in fuel extraction, refining and transportation, or the production and distribution of electricity. Some studies suggest the upstream CO2 of electricity is greater than for gasoline, but the relative efficiency calculations here implicitly assume they are equal.
Electrification has proved to be a promising path to reducing tailpipe emissions. The most extreme form of the technology—fully-electric vehicles—is often hailed as the solution. Paradoxically, full BEVs appear to be a highly inefficient way to achieve an urgent and meaningful CO2 reduction. With supply chain issues and consumer acceptance challenges including range and price, there is cause to investigate alternative use of our limited battery capacity.—Nick Molden
Improving the air quality in cities is another popular reason for those championing BEVs. It is, however, a false assertion that they are needed to fulfil this purpose. Existing technology is more than capable of bringing European cities within compliance, the primary polluters being vehicles with older internal combustion engine technology.
Molden outlined two potential paths that are immediately available. One is a switch from gasoline to diesel, reducing CO2 by 11%, coupled with a mild hybrid system, providing a further 6% reduction. A final swap to full hybrids would deliver an addition 16% reduction for a 34% total. Alternatively, switching directly from gasoline to gasoline mild hybrids provides an 11% reduction, with a further 23% from the move to full hybrid.
The EU’s post-2021 CO2 reduction target for passenger cars is 37.5% by 2030. Emissions Analytics tests clearly shows that, even with current technology, widespread hybridization would achieve more than three-quarters of that target.
Given a decade of further advances and innovations, it is possible that the goal could be met without the need for BEVs at all, Emissions Analytics says. Beyond the 37.5% reduction target, more extensive electrification would be required to bring whole fleet emissions down.
The ideal solution is an immediate transition to petrol and diesel hybrids, with a further decade spent refining the technology, infrastructure and battery supply chain to allow the adoption of BEVs. By 2030, the EU and the US would have had another decade to develop expanded, cleaner electricity generation capacity, improving the lifecycle emissions of BEVs.
Alternatively, by 2030 the availability and price of renewable energy may well fall to a level at which hydrogen fuel cells could be economically viable. These avoid the environmental and geopolitical issues caused by largescale battery production and would likely offer even lower lifecycle emissions. The overall message is this though: it is paramount that governments and industry take into consideration real-world data when promoting technologies to efficiently reduce CO2.—Nick Molden
Emissions Analytics seeks to bring transparency to a confused market sector. It publishes the EQUA Index of real-world driving emissions and works with clients around the world to establish accurate emissions measurement and data requirements.