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Insights Mythbuster Series #4: Electric Vehicles Have a Worse Environmental Impact
Mythbuster Series #4: Electric Vehicles Have a Worse Environmental Impact

Revolv’s Mythbusters Series dives into common misconceptions around electric vehicles, offering factual insights to aid fleet owners and operators and help them get the most out of the EV transition.

The Myth: Electric Vehicles Have a Worse Environmental Impact

At this point, the Revolv team has debunked common misconceptions around transitioning to electric fleets, including costs, charging, range, and not needing to outsource. But what about environmental impact? 

As the EV era progresses, skeptics continue to point out that EVs have a larger carbon footprint than their ICE counterparts due to battery manufacturing, supply chains, and charging. 

However, it has been proven time and again that EVs have a far less environmental impact and fleet owners should transition to electric vehicles to slash emissions while reducing costs and downtime.

The Fact: Vehicle Lifetime Matters

While it is true that batteries account for up to 60% of embedded greenhouse gas emissions in EV production and studies have found that the production of a BEV indeed causes more emissions than that of a gasoline-powered vehicle, this difference in greenhouse gas emissions is quickly overcome as the vehicle is driven. Therefore, when evaluating total GHG emissions for each of these respective vehicle types, it is critical to look over the full operational lifetime of the vehicles.

Although EVs generate more emissions than the average ICE vehicle prior to operation, this difference is made up within the first few years of operating the vehicles since EVs do not produce tailpipe emissions. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, the pollution equation evens out within the first 1–2 years. Overall, electric vehicles’ lifecycle emissions can be 70% lower than gasoline and diesel vehicles, according to BloombergNEF.

Deploying zero-emission vehicles, like EVs, and eliminating tailpipe emissions is crucial for meeting climate goals, with transportation emissions being the largest contributor of US GHG emissions and contributing to approximately 45% of total emissions inventory in the US. Heavy-duty vehicles, in particular, are responsible for a quarter of the nation’s transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. As more heavy-duty fleets go electric, with the EPA’s latest ruling, a billion tons of those emissions will be avoided by 2055, which is equivalent to eliminating the pollution from 13 million tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline. 

The Fact: You can Charge your Vehicle with Clean Energy

But doesn’t the electricity used to charge EVs come from burning coal or natural gas? Another predominant argument around EV emissions has emerged around the electricity used to charge electric vehicles, particularly large truck fleets.

The reality is that EVs can tap renewable energy sources so there are no carbon emissions coming from the charging electricity. And the good news is that more and more renewable sources – such as wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower – are coming online at a breakneck pace. According to IEA, global annual renewable capacity additions increased by almost 50% to nearly 510 gigawatts in 2023 – the fastest growth rate in the past two decades and the 22nd year in a row that renewable capacity additions set a new record. For context, in 2023 the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that 894 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of renewable energy was generated in the U.S. compared to 2,505 billion kWh of fossil fuels and 775 billion kWh of nuclear power – indicating that the U.S. is bridging the gap between renewable and fossil fuel energy sources. 

If you’re a fleet owner looking to charge your fleet exclusively with renewables, having the right partner can help. At Revolv, for example, all of the vehicles we support under our service either use renewable energy to charge or we purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to offset 100% of the emissions associated with the charging electricity.  

Moreover, it’s important to note that, even using coal-powered electricity to charge up, EVs are far more efficient than a gasoline-powered vehicle. In fact, EVs convert over 77% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels, whereas conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 12–30% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels.

The Fact: EVs are Improving Every Day

When comparing EVs with ICE vehicles, it’s also important to note that the ecosystem is quickly changing. Right now we’re in the early innings but we can expect more technology improvements – both upstream and downstream – enabling EVs to become even more environmentally friendly.

For example, battery recycling is surging and the number of localized battery recycling facilities on US soil is quickly growing. In fact, some industry officials anticipate that 40% of battery materials used in new EVs could come from recycled stocks by 2040.

The same is true on the upstream manufacturing side with new US-based gigafactories popping up frequently from Tesla, BMW, Ford and others, eliminating emissions from shipping overseas. In fact, recent analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund found that enough US battery production capacity has already been announced to supply all the electric vehicles – both cars and trucks – expected to be sold in 2030. We can also expect that battery and manufacturing facilities will be powered by renewable energy, thus reducing emissions further.

The Fact: Revolv Can Help 

Slashing transportation emissions has been a number-one priority for Revolv, and we’re helping our partners navigate the changing landscape. We evaluate environmental impact every step of the way, including analyzing the vehicles we buy, starting with the vendor selection process; throughout the entire supply chain; through charging with renewables; and more.

And since we retain ownership of the vehicles, we also manage all the details around extending the useful life of each battery – from handling battery recycling, even if it’s for thousands of vehicles, to redeploying those vehicles to potentially determining alternative applications for batteries (i.e., grid storage) – to maximize what our partners can get out of every battery.

All evidence points to the sustainability of EVs today and Revolv is ensuring that the future is even brighter.