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4 Key Facts about EVs and the Environment

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The U.S. will need at least 50 million EVs by 2030 to effectively reduce emissions.

Speaking at a recent webinar from the Center for Automotive Research, Rocky Mountain Institute Managing Director Britta Gross said that 50 million is the low end of what’s needed to make real impacts in lowering global emissions.

Today, there are around 1.5 million EVs on the road, she added.

“These numbers are stunningly aggressive,” she said. “And if we’re going to make a meaningful impact on climate and temperature, we’ve got to get on pace today.”

To support that many electric vehicles, the country will need around 300,000 DC fast chargers, Gross said.


OEs are starting to meet consumer tastes in the EV segment.

Gross noted in her presentation what most shop owners have probably seen as well: Most new vehicles out there are egg-shaped crossover SUVs. That has been a huge shift in customer preference in recent years.

“There’s been a massive movement and shift from car ownership up to crossover and SUV ownership,” Gross said.

But the EVs being offered by automakers so far have almost exclusively been lighter, more efficient cars. That’s a big barrier in winning over prospective buyers.

That’s starting to change. Consumers are looking at a potential glut of battery-electric trucks and SUVs coming out from startup companies like Lordstown and Tesla, as well as legacy OEs like Ford. That could be enough to jumpstart more EV sales, particularly in the U.S. market.


A growing EV market resides mostly in China.

According to an outlook report from the International Energy Agency, 47 percent of electric cars on the world’s roads are in China. In total the IEA estimates that around 7.2 million electric cars were on the road in 2019.

Even as car sales have slowed in recent years, the growth of EV sales continues and increased by about 6 percent from 2018 to 2019. Still, EVs accounted for only about 2.6 percent of global car sales in 2019, the IEA report says.

EV sales took a dive in the first quarter of 2020—around 25 percent, according to a McKinsey report

COVID-19 is sure to further slow the global sales trends for all vehicles. But as ADAPT reported last week, the overall trends of acceptability among car buyers is growing.


Including production, EVs are greener than internal combustion vehicles.

There has been growing attention to the emissions attributed to electric vehicles that occur in the manufacturing process. The U.S. Department of Energy calls this idea “life cycle emissions” and defines it thusly:

“Life cycle emissions include all emissions related to fuel and vehicle production, processing, distribution, use, and recycling/disposal.  For example, for a conventional gasoline vehicle, emissions are produced when petroleum is extracted from the ground, refined to gasoline, distributed to stations, and burned in vehicles. Like direct emissions, life cycle emissions include a variety of harmful pollutants and GHGs (greenhouse gasses).”

Critics have challenged the production of EVs as being dirtier than legacy auto plants, but this hasn’t been proved in research. The BBC cited European university research that showed EVs as better for the climate, from production to road use, in 95 percent of the world. This is due to corporate and government-led shifts to cleaner energy in production plants.

A thorough study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that while emissions are similar when manufacturing an EV or an internal combustion vehicle, there are still significantly fewer emissions during operation that make for long-term benefits.

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