Air Quality

Published on June 22nd, 2017 | by Guest Contributor


Swedish EV Battery Study Sucks

June 22nd, 2017 by  

By Viktor Irle, EV Volumes Cofounder & Analyst (and presenter + panelist at our coming Cleantech Revolution Tour conference)

The Swedish state media organization SVT reports in an absurdly incorrect and misleading article “Electric vehicles may be the worst for the climate” that electric vehicles are bad for the environment, especially referring to “severe” issues regarding their lithium-ion batteries.

To quote Donald Trump, “Sweden, who would believe this?”

The research was conducted by IVL, and was funded by the Swedish Energy Agency jointly with the Swedish Transport Authority. Some great responses debunking the study have already been published, but we felt compelled to publish our own as well.

Here are some of the incorrect “findings” of the IVL researchers, Mia Romare and Lisbeth Dahllöf:

  • Regular lithium-ion batteries will produce 150–200 kilo of CO2/kWh in production.
  • Regular EV batteries with 25–30 kWh of capacity will result in 5 metric tonnes CO2, which is equivalent to 50,000 km driving in a regular, fuel-efficient diesel vehicle (sticker consumption).

The Swedish state media organization SVT concludes that battery electric vehicles with larger batteries may have to travel 250,000 km before the environmental benefits of an EV will be regained, in relation to a “moderately consuming” diesel vehicle.

They also claim that you must drive your EV for 20 years before it will regain its environmental benefits compared to a diesel or gasoline equivalent.

Note that Tesla and Renault have not been interviewed for the study, but their batteries have been categorized as average batteries.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s response was straightforward and simple:

With that background out of the way, here’s a short summary of dramatically incorrect and misleading assumptions the SVT TV report and article made:

  1. The study assumes that the engine of the default diesel vehicles, including all the components of its engine, will not produce any CO2 at all. Producing iron, aluminum, and other components does not produce CO2. Yeah, right. See where this is going?
  2. SVT also think that it make sense to compare with “environmental friendly diesel” that has been mixed with 40–50% “carbon-neutral” hydrocarbons. That’s a rather unrealistic assumption to pull out of one’s hat. This is perhaps true for one or a few brands. But in all, it is like assuming all people can play violin, because the best one does.
  3. Probably the worst assumption: gasoline and diesel never produced any additional CO2 during their life before showing up at the pump. Zero emissions during oil drilling, equipment and rig production, transportation, production of tankers, the refinery processes of petrol, and burning the excessive risky natural gas. The assumption is, therefore that diesel suddenly appears from nowhere in the tanks at local petrol stations, like magic. Not sure who’d believe that?
  4. They assume that Tesla batteries have been produced using 50% fossil fuel, which is just incorrect.
  5. They assume electric vehicle drivers are driving their vehicles on 50% fossil fuel in the electricity mix. While this is true for some grids, the normal case for electric vehicle drivers is to purchase clean electricity, or what they believe is to be a clean energy mix, or simply produce their own.
  6. SVT further assumes the fuel economy sticker values on petrol vehicles are true, and simply multiply them to the distances driven. Yeah … that’s not even close to realistic.
  7. They do not highlight the general problem of humans forcing their children to inhale diesel exhaust every time they cross the road or walk on sidewalks. (On that topic, see: “Study: Diesel Exhaust Tied To 38,000 Early Deaths A Year.”)

In all, this study has been using out-of-date data and made some completely wrong and just bad assumptions. Further, its findings have very much been interpreted wrongly by members of the mass media, which right now are referencing each other on even worse assumptions. Perhaps the original research calculations are valid, but based on bad, out-of-date, and incorrectly assumed data, the media is having a counterproductive blast majorly distorting the true picture of electric vehicles this week.

Oil should perhaps be viewed as an energy storage mechanism that is utilized just once (burnt to destruction), and compared in that way to the energy storage minerals and materials in a battery, which is utilized thousands of times, and can even be recycled after all of that and have those minerals and materials used again. Which option seems greener to you on the surface? This isn’t rocket science.

The IVL paper already received some moderate critiques from Nevs CEO Mattias Bergman. Will other automakers feel compelled to speak up as well? Aside from Elon Musk’s tweet above, we think one response could be: Don’t consume fake news, even from Sweden, and make the world great again!


Top image by Alex E. Proimos (some rights reserved)

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