While Repower Group believes that cost savings will be the primary driver for mass fleet electric vehicle adoption, many corporate fleets (i.e. EV100), municipalities (i.e. Kirk Caldwell of Hawaii), and private transportation services (i.e. NYC taxi, Lyft) put incremental value on emissions reduction for a variety of different reasons.
In this post, we’ll explore the cumulative emissions differences between gasoline vehicles and electric vehicles.
First, we’ll look at each category of emissions on their own; they are:
Tailpipe emissions: literally, from the vehicle tailpipe
Well-to-wheel emissions: emissions created by the production of fuel to power the vehicle (or in the case of an electric vehicle, the energy that powers the electrical grid)
Production emissions: emissions from the vehicle manufacturing process
Let's dig in.
Tailpipe emissions. Because of the relatively high number of miles driven by fleet vehicles (versus personal vehicles), fleet vehicles punch well above their weight in producing these emissions. Compounding that, most heavier vehicles (class 3 through 8) are fleet vehicles and require more energy to operate per mile. Together, these factors cause tailpipe emissions to be one of today’s leading contributors of CO2 and other particulates.
The transition to electric essentially eliminates 100% of these tailpipe emissions.
Well-to-Wheel Emissions. Most of us generally understand that crude oil gets mined, processed, and delivered through various channels to our cars to power our vehicles’ engines. But what’s the equivalent chain for electric vehicles? When plugged into the electrical grid, an electric vehicle’s engine receives its power from the same place that your house or anything else does.
The U.S. breakdown is shown below (source:www.eia.gov) – though it’s worth noting that there are variations based on region, state, utility, etc.
Each of these energy sources has a different emissions profile. At a high level, fossil fuel power emits the most CO2, and renewable power emits the least. No shocking news here.
The higher the % of power sourced from renewable plants, the lower the well-to-wheel emissions. This is one of the key services that Repower Group helps fleet operators with. It doesn’t hurt that renewable energy is ALSO the least expensive source of electricity.
Production emissions. The primary difference in electric vehicle production is the need for a battery. Battery production has a material amount of CO2 emissions. If you’re interested, read more about that here: Tesla Battery Emissions Study. If you’re not interested, just know that we took battery production emissions into our cumulative calculation below.
Cumulative emissions. Taking these three emissions categories in total and comparing them by vehicle utilization allows us to understand the whole picture in the Exhibit 3:
Conclusion 1. As you can see, fleet vehicles emit ~3x more emissions than personal vehicles. On a percentage basis, their CO2 emissions reductions are similar, but fleet vehicles have an incredibly higher opportunity in their transition to electric on an absolute basis due to their high utilization.
Conclusion 2. Where possible, increasing the percentage of renewable power supply for an electric vehicle drastically reduces the well-to-wheel emissions, and such, the cumulative emissions. At large, this will be positively impacted by continued government, utility, and homeowner investment in renewable energy. Examples of this are onsite or near-site solar energy projects, onsite battery storage, or other more nuanced approaches to balanced vehicle charging or electricity use.
On the commercial side, Repower Group works with business owners to set up direct renewable energy as a source of charging their vehicles to help lower costs. With thoughtful planning, this approach provides the maximum cost savings for fleet operators - as such, we expect this to be the natural path for many businesses. It doesn’t hurt that this approach also provides these organizations with resiliency (if there are ever interruptions in grid power, aka “blackouts”) and drastically further reduces cumulative vehicle emissions.
Whichever your motivation, electric vehicles are already showing significant advantages over gasoline vehicles, especially for high utilization uses.
As the cost advantages continue to grow in favor of electric vehicles and vehicle availability expands, electric vehicle adoption will hit the gas pedal (pun intended), hard.