Are the electric vehicles more sustainable than the conventional ones? Influences of the assumptions and modeling approaches in the case of typical cars in China

Dan Zeng, Yan Dong*, Huajun Cao*, Yuke Li, Jia Wang, Zhenbiao Li, Michael Zwicky Hauschild

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

In order to make the sustainable development of transport system, China has taken actions toward the electrification transition of vehicles. However, whether the electric vehicles (EVs) are more environmentally friendly than the conventional internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) in China is still not clear due to a lack of complete and consistent environmental impact comparison of vehicles. This study takes the vehicle models from BYD Qin Pro series in China as illustrations to compare the environmental impact of battery electric vehicle (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with the conventional ICEV. The environmental profiles of vehicles across the whole life cycle within a set of environmental indicators are analyzed. The key aspects that may heavily influence the environmental impacts, i.e. regional heterogeneity, technology improvement and different modeling methods (attributional vs consequential) choices, are further tested, respectively. The results show that already today the BEV and PHEV powered by the current average Chinese electricity mix offer 23% and 17% reduction of global warming potential (GWP), respectively, compared to the gasoline ICEV. But it is achieved at the expense of considerable increases in mineral resource scarcity and ecological and human toxicity, etc. All of the factors considered show markedly influences on the environmental profiles of EVs, even up to 51% of GWP differences for different modeling methods application. And they all have the possibility to reverse the environmental priorities of some impact categories among ICEV, BEV and PHEV.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105210
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
ISSN0921-3449
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Electric vehicle
  • Environmental impact
  • LCA
  • Regional heterogeneity
  • Technological progress
  • Consequential modeling

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