Measuring the Environmental Performance of EVs


  • The EV you buy today will get cleaner every day that you drive it, and it will last longer with less maintenance and fuel costs.
  • Various factors like location, time of day, and the energy source will determine the emissions from your EV.

The Eco Scorecard: Electric vs. Gas

When it comes to vehicle emissions, it’s not just what you emit, but when and where you emit.

The environmental power of electric vehicles (EVs) is the overall reduction of emissions plus the consolidation of emissions in both time and geography.

Gasoline vehicles emit pollutants along commute routes during rush hour. These emissions not only accelerate climate change, they also create local air quality issues that impact health and economic development.

Emissions from charging

An EV’s emissions are complex to determine, as they are specific to the grid location and time of charging.

The EV itself releases no emissions when driving. Instead, the “long tailpipe” emissions of EVs are generally consolidated to overnight hours at a handful of power generation stations. These power stations can create drastically lower emissions than the thousands of distributed car engines they replace – especially when these power stations have advanced emission controls, renewable technologies, and steady utilization.

In a state like Texas, the overnight hours are often heavy wind generation periods that can create a very low emissions profile. So, when and where you charge can influence the emissions created by generating that energy, in addition to the price of energy during the charging session.

Unlike gasoline vehicles, your EV drives cleaner every day as the grid lowers emissions with a constantly improving mix of generation resources (i.e., wind and solar).

Emissions from manufacturing

While EVs present a significant step towards improving local air quality and fighting climate change, they're not without their own environmental impacts – especially when it comes to their manufacturing process.

Most (if not all) EVs drive off the lot with an "emissions premium." This term refers to the greenhouse gases emitted during the production of the EV itself, particularly its battery. The production of lithium-ion batteries, the heart of most electric vehicles, is energy-intensive and involves materials that must be mined and processed.

For the time being, the consensus among environmental researchers is that you may need to drive around 20,000 miles to "pay back" the emissions premium incurred from the EV's manufacturing. This figure, however, is a moving target. It varies based on the EV model, the energy source used for electricity to charge the vehicle, and improvements in manufacturing processes.

Despite this challenge, there's a silver lining. The automotive industry and battery manufacturers are acutely aware of these issues, and they are actively seeking solutions to mitigate the environmental and ethical impacts of EV production. Innovations in battery technology, recycling, and material sourcing are among the top priorities.

It's also important to consider the broader picture. While the manufacturing phase of EVs is more emissions-intensive compared to conventional vehicles, the total lifetime emissions (including both manufacturing and operation phases) of EVs are typically lower. This is because EVs emit no tailpipe pollutants and, depending on the electricity source, are significantly cleaner over their operational life.

Understanding the complexities of EV emissions highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to sustainability. It involves not just the end-use of products but their entire lifecycle – from raw material extraction to manufacturing, usage, and eventually recycling.


Merge Electric Fleet Solutions can help your company understand the economic and environmental of EVs on your business: Contact us

See related article: EV Economics – Breaking Down Upfront Costs vs. Long-term Savings


Build an electric fleet based on your unique operations

Get access to vehicles & charging infrastructure