Electric vehicles (EVs) offer zero emissions at the tailpipe level, but their true carbon footprint stretches far beyond that. These vehicles—and notably their batteries—can produce significant emissions during their manufacturing, and end-of-life recycling of the lithium-ion batteries is complex. The source of the electricity used to charge EVs in daily operation also can have a big impact depending on how it is produced. And what if their batteries are later put into second-life applications—how does this affect the accounting? The trouble is that the industry currently lacks harmonised standards to help the assessment of that overall footprint in a consistent way.
A new European Union-funded initiative has begun work on setting out a baseline for a European-wide single life cycle assessment (LCA) approach for zero emission vehicles (ZEV) and batteries, but which should also be applicable for vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE).
“LCA is really just about providing a more holistic end-to-end assessment of the impacts of a product or service,” explains Nikolas Hill, Head of Vehicle Technologies and Fuels in Ricardo’s Sustainable Transport team. Ricardo Plc is part of the core team of the collaborative TranSensus LCA project consortium, coordinated by Fraunhofer LBF & IST, and whose members from industry consist of BMW, EDF, Northvolt, Renault, Ricardo, Scania, Sphera, ST Microelectronics, Umicore, Valeo and Volkswagen as well as nine different research associations, and 24 associated partner organisations.