15 sep 23

How clean is green?

While EVs are touted as a cleaner alternative to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, fleets can only reckon with their overall environmental impact if they factor in all the influential steps. Not all EVs are created equal.

No tailpipe emissions, no pollution. If it were only that simple. As EVs emit their CO2 elsewhere, i.e. a triangle between the place of material sourcing, electricity production and manufacturing, their actual carbon footprint makes for a jigsaw puzzle. Their particle emissions, from brakes and tyres, are addressed in the Euro 7 ruling.

  • Locality: EVs made and used in countries with low renewable energy production or lagging investments are decidedly less environmentally friendly. An EV in Poland emits six times more CO2 during operation than in Sweden.
  • Production: during their production phase, battery-powered cars emit a significant amount of carbon-dioxide - more than ICE models. OEMs with green factories in stricter-ruled regions assemble lower impact EVs.
  • Mining: beyond carbon dioxide, the mining for battery materials has a strong environmental and societal impact. And as time-consuming relocation has yet to materialize, most brands source from the same suppliers.
  • Size: SUVs make practical platforms for long-mileage battery packs. But with their elevated energy consumption and higher impact packs, heftier EVs are offset by smaller ones.   

While current government incentives don’t take into account the full footprint, the dynamics are changing. France, for instance, is shaping policy measures where the CO2 emissions of the complete production chain will determine the amount of government support, favouring locally made cars over imports. 

Though driven by macroeconomic stimuli, this is a logical step forward as short-chain manufacturing is more climate-neutral than a price mechanism favouring cheaper-made EVs.  


Discover more on Sustainbale Procurement, in our e-book 

Authored by: Piet Andries