In a recent press release, Volvo announced that it’s found a way to truly stick it to the trolls that attack EVs online, in social media, and in regular media. Before we get to how Volvo did this, let’s take a look at the bogus arguments that it’s proving wrong.
A Common Argument Against EVs
Anti-EV propagandists often try to discredit electric vehicles (EVs) by focusing on the production emissions associated with their manufacturing process. They argue that these emissions negate the environmental benefits of EVs, making them no better than conventional vehicles, or perhaps even worse. However, this line of argument is misleading and unfair when taken out of context.
Critics of EVs primarily target the production of batteries with this argument, and that’s often effective because batteries are a crucial component of electric vehicles. They claim that the mining, processing, and manufacturing of battery materials, such as lithium and cobalt, produce significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, they point out that some battery production facilities are powered by fossil fuels, further increasing the carbon footprint of EVs.
While it’s true that battery production generates emissions, focusing solely on this aspect of EVs is unbalanced and does not provide a complete picture of their environmental impact. A fair comparison of EVs and conventional vehicles should consider their entire lifecycle, including production, use, and disposal. Numerous studies have shown that, over their lifetime, EVs produce significantly fewer emissions than internal combustion engine vehicles, even when accounting for battery production. The carbon footprint of an EV improves dramatically once it hits the road, as it produces zero tailpipe emissions and relies on increasingly cleaner electricity sources.
The anti-EV trolls also tend to ignore efforts to clean things up. One big thing they ignore is the potential for recycling and reusing batteries. As the market for electric vehicles grows, so does the development of recycling technologies and infrastructure. Recycling and reusing EV batteries can help reduce the environmental impact of their production, while also providing valuable materials for new batteries. Plus, more companies are investing in cleaner battery production methods. For example, some manufacturers are working to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels by using renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. Additionally, there is ongoing research to develop less carbon-intensive mining and processing techniques for battery materials.
But, being able to “prove” that EVs are dirtier than ICE vehicles in certain limited ways is still a powerful argument that disingenuous and deceptive people continue to use, often effectively, against the population.
Volvo’s Working To Rob Them Of Their Last Good Point
Volvo’s proud of its latest EX30. The company says it’s a “distillation of all the great things about Volvo cars,” including safety and modernity. But they did something even more special with this one: they made it with a smaller carbon footprint than any Volvo ever made.
Addressing emissions throughout the entire production process and lifespan of the Volvo EX30, the automaker has successfully reduced the vehicle’s total carbon footprint to under 30 tonnes over a driving distance of 200,000 kilometers. This signifies a 25 percent reduction compared to the fully electric C40 and XC40 models, marking significant progress toward Volvo’s goal of reducing overall CO2 emissions per car by 40 percent between 2018 and 2025.
The Volvo EX30, a fully electric vehicle, produces no tailpipe emissions, thereby contributing to a reduced CO2 footprint. This absence of emissions can have a considerable impact on air quality. For instance, recent research conducted by the University of Southern California revealed that even a minor increase in the number of electric vehicles within a region directly correlates with a decrease in emergency room visits related to asthma.
Reducing a vehicle’s overall carbon footprint involves more than just electrification. A car undergoes various stages, including design, development, manufacturing, and transportation — each of which presents opportunities for further minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Our new EX30 is a big step in the right direction for our sustainability ambitions,” said Anders Kärrberg, our Global Head of Sustainability. “By 2025, we aim to reduce our overall CO2 emissions per car by 40 per cent from 2018 levels through a 50 per cent reduction in overall tailpipe emissions, and a 25 per cent reduction in emissions from our operations, raw material sourcing and supply chain — all on the way towards our ambition of being a climate-neutral company by 2040.”
How was the CO2 footprint of the Volvo EX30 reduced to 75 percent compared to current electric models? It took attacking the problem from multiple angles.
Designing For Clean Production
Firstly, designing a smaller vehicle requires less material for production. Since aluminum and steel are major contributors to production-related CO2 emissions, this is an area where both the manufacturer and customers can make a significant difference.
Additionally, the new small SUV utilizes less steel and aluminum, while incorporating more recycled content. Approximately one-quarter of all aluminum and 17 percent of all steel used in constructing the Volvo EX30 come from recycled sources, further decreasing the environmental impact of these materials. This sustainable approach extends to the interior design as well. By adopting optimization as a core sustainable design principle, the designers have managed to integrate multiple functions within a single component in the Volvo EX30. This technique reduces the number of required parts without sacrificing functionality.
The materials chosen for the Volvo EX30 also play a significant role in promoting sustainability in vehicle production. Approximately 17 percent of all plastics used in the car, ranging from interior components to exterior bumpers, are derived from recycled sources — the highest percentage in any Volvo car produced thus far.
Emission reduction in the manufacturing and supply chain is another critical aspect, such as through the provision of clean energy. The Volvo EX30 will be produced in a factory powered by high levels of climate-neutral energy, including 100 percent climate-neutral electricity.
Regarding the supply chain, Volvo has collaborated with its Tier 1 suppliers for this car, and 95 percent of them have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy in their production by 2025 — with many already achieving this goal. This demonstrates Volvo’s ambition to reduce emissions not only in its own operations but also by encouraging partners throughout the supply chain to follow suit.
The production process for the Volvo EX30 has been optimized in various ways, resulting in one of the highest rates of material utilization in stamped body parts during manufacturing. To address the challenge of material traceability, particularly in battery pack production for the Volvo EX30, blockchain technology has been implemented to help track critical raw materials, which now include lithium, manganese, cobalt, graphite, and nickel.
The End Result
When the company was done, Volvo managed to produce a vehicle that not only theorizes about the future of clean manufacturing, but puts money where the company’s mouth is.
Take that, anti-EV trolls!
Featured image provided by Volvo.
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