Given the dominance of coal in China’s energy mix, a medium-sized electric vehicle (EV) produced there currently starts life with a “carbon debt” almost twice that of an equivalent internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. However, the greater efficiency of EV motors relative to ICEs means that a Chinese-made EV will emit less than two thirds as much CO2 over its lifetime than a petrol-powered equivalent – even if charged using electricity from a coal-heavy power grid. And crucially, the calculus will shift further towards EVs over time as power grids become greener and the recycling of battery metals gathers pace.
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