Editor’s note: This magazine has been a proponent of electric vehicles because they will help revive a struggling utility industry and by extension, the wind industry. However, in the interest of intellectual honesty and being stewards of the planet, we must consider the wider aspects of new and promising technology.
A recent study of the real impact of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) compared to internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), in terms of total cost of ownership (net of public subsidies) and environmental impact, reveals no easy choice for eco-minded consumers. Do BEVs truly offer an environmental advantage – and if so, at what cost?
“Our study is unique in that the analysis is conducted from OEM, consumer and market-based perspectives enabling a true ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison between BEVs and ICEVs, including alternative transportation and battery-pack replacement for BEV owners, which are often overlooked.”
The study, by Arthur D. Little (ADL), analyzes the impact of new BEVs and ICEVs in the US, and projects the economic and environmental effects over the assumed 20-year lifetime of a US passenger vehicle.
ADL’s comprehensive research looked at BEVs and ICEVs manufactured in 2015 and 2025, considering both greenhouse gas emissions and the secondary environmental impact of vehicle production. While the total cost of ownership for BEVs is forecast to decrease significantly by 2025, the magnitude of this decline is not sufficient enough for BEVs to gain a cost advantage relative to ICEVs.
The environmental impact is more complex. ADL’s study found that a BEV purchased in 2015 will produce 23% less greenhouse gas emissions than a similar ICEV, but the lifecycle of a 2015 BEV will generate about three times as much human toxicity. Combined with the financial burden BEVs place on the consumer, the complex environmental reality of BEVs will continue to present challenges for the sustainability-minded consumer in choosing whether to drive a BEV or an ICEV.
Commenting on the findings, John Brennan, Managing Director, Arthur D. Little US, said, “While the promise of BEVs has excited consumers and regulators alike, the fact remains that the R&D, production, in-use, and end-of-life of BEVs and their Li-ion batteries have their own set of economic and environmental challenges, in terms of both overall cost of ownership and human-health impact. Our study is a must-read for any transportation policy-maker and sustainability-minded consumer looking to understand the realities of the mainstream acceptance and use of BEVs in America’s transportation fleet.”
Tim Barder, Manager, Arthur D. Little US, stated: “Our study is unique in that the analysis is conducted from OEM, consumer, and market-based perspectives enabling a true ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison between BEVs and ICEVs, including alternative transportation and battery-pack replacement for BEV owners, which are often overlooked.”
For the full report, visit www.adlittle.com/BEV_ICEV.
For another perspective, see the response by David Reichmuth, Senior Engineer, Clean Vehicles at the Union of Concerned Scientists, here: https://goo.gl/QJOItW
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Mark Renburke says
There are important aspects of the study’s methodology and assumptions that readers should be aware of. In order with the chart (Figure 10) shown above:
True Vehicle Cost: Though being assigned to the consumer, this is not the cost the consumer pays, rather an estimate of the cost to the manufacturer and dealer of producing and selling the car. It excluded all consumer incentives such as federal tax credit, state rebates, or any other manufacturer or dealer incentives. Also, the study did not divulge the makes and models of BEV versus ICEV compared, casting doubt that they are comparably equipped and performing vehicles.
In Use gasoline vs Electricity: Gasoline costs based on national average long term projections deducted taxes based on of 48 cents per gallon from the ICEV ownership cost without adequate explanation beyond stating BEV owners don’t pay fuel taxes; the annual mileage assumption was only 7,500 miles per year, far lower than TCO analysis typically use @15k per year, which skews fuel and maintainence costs lower for the ICEV. Electricity rates were not national average but rather an average of the states where EVs sell most now and used and 80/20 off peak/peak rate mix.
State fees: Assumed to be $1,300 more without explanation.
Battery replacement/charging station: Assumed with basis, asumme possible at 7 years/52.5k miles while battery still under warranty; Assumption is over $1,200 required for a home charging station, despite being optional equipment (all PEVs include adapter to charge from a standard home outlet)
Alternative transportation: Assumes BEV will not meet owners’ transportation needs to the tune of over $10,000 in car rental/2nd vehicle costs