Electric outperforms diesel in climate impact within first year of operation
In as little as one year of operation, an electric truck can have a smaller total carbon footprint than a diesel truck, according to findings from a recent Scania study.
How far do you need to drive your electric truck before the overall climate impact is lower than that of a diesel vehicle? And what is the potential reduction of CO2 emissions for battery electric vehicles compared with fossil-fuelled vehicles?
These were questions that Scania wanted to investigate in a recent study that calculated the approximate cradle-to-grave carbon footprint of a battery electric truck, 40 tonnes gross train weight, regional haulage, compared with a diesel counterpart.*
CO2 break-even point at 37,000 kilometres operation
David Algesten, who together with research colleague Dora Burul within Scania Research & Development was responsible for the study, says the results might be surprising to many.
“If there is access to green electricity, the break-even point is already at approximately 37,000 kilometres for the vehicles in the study,” Algesten says. “And with the current European grid mix, the CO2 break-even point is at around 59,000 kilometres."
“These low mileage figures might surprise some, as they demonstrate that already within the first year of operation, the overall climate impact of the BEV (battery electric vehicle) is lower than that of a diesel vehicle, even without actively choosing green electricity.”
Electrified heavy vehicles offer substantial climate benefits
Two years ago, Scania conducted a full LCA, life cycle assessment, comparing the total environmental impact of two distribution haulage trucks, one battery electric and one diesel. The new study confirms the results of the previous study.
“We consistently see similar trends when comparing BEVs to ICEVs (internal combustion engine vehicles)," says Algesten. "Electrified heavy vehicles offer substantial climate benefits, with green electricity enhancing the results.”
Potential CO2 reduction of around 90 percent
In Scania’s new study, a key factor was to scrutinise the climate impact of the different phases of the vehicles’ life cycle, from production to use, maintenance and end of life.
“In the production phase, we cover everything from raw material extraction to part manufacturing and vehicle assembly, including batteries,” says Algesten.
The study found that battery electric vehicle production generates roughly double the climate impact compared with an equivalent diesel truck – 52 tonnes of CO2e vs 25 tonnes.
However, Algesten says, thanks to much lower carbon emissions during use, electrified vehicles can achieve a potential reduction of around 90 percent when charged with low-carbon electricity.
“And if charged with current European grid mix, the reduction potential over the vehicle’s lifetime is approximately 56 percent,” he says.
Study to encourage the transition to electric
The results of the study provide convincing evidence of the environmental benefits of electric heavy vehicles, the Scania researchers conclude, and thus are promising from a transport business perspective.
“It is evident that transitioning to electrified vehicles poses different challenges," says Algesten. "Demonstrating the climate potential with battery electric heavy vehicles is important in dispelling any doubts or misconceptions that might still be in this area. And hopefully, by strengthening the arguments, we can encourage the transition to an electrified vehicle fleet.”
Electric vs diesel – key findings in Scania’s carbon footprint study
- The electric truck in the study outperformed the diesel vehicle in terms of climate impact after about 37,000 kilometres, given low-carbon electricity charging (10 gCO2e/kWh).
- With European average electricity carbon intensity (233 gCO2e/kWh), the CO2 break-even point is at around 59,000 kilometres.
- Battery electric regional haulage vehicle production generates roughly double the climate impact of an equivalent diesel truck (52 tonnes of CO2e vs 25 tonnes).
- Because of lower emissions during usage, the electrified vehicle in the study can achieve up to a 90 percent reduction in emissions (70 tonnes of CO2e vs 778 tonnes for the diesel vehicle) when charged with low-carbon electricity.
- When charged with European average electricity (233gCO2e/kWh), the reduction potential over the vehicle’s lifetime is approximately 56 percent.
Source: Scania, third-party verified by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute Ltd.
*The vehicles in the study were 4x2 tractors for regional haulage with a gross train weight of 40 tonnes. Specifications were kept as similar as possible other than the powertrains. The installed battery capacity in the BEV is 624 kWh and the assumed driven distance for both vehicles is 1,000,000 kilometres. The ICEV is assumed to run on diesel B7.
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