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Viral post exaggerates about electric car batteries versus gas cars

By Andy Nguyen,
| Austin American-Statesman

Viral posts: “Making the battery for an electric car produces the same amount of carbon dioxide as a gasoline car does for eight years.”

PolitiFact’s decision: Mostly wrong

Here’s why: Electric vehicles are being touted as an eco-friendly alternative to gas-powered cars, but a Facebook post claims the benefits are exaggerated and the vehicles are far more harmful to the planet than people assume.

A cartoon posted on Facebook April 29th shows a car in a board with “Diesel” on the side and the driver thinking “I feel so dirty”. Another board says “electric” on the side of a car and the driver thinks, “I feel so clean.”

However, the electric vehicle is connected to a factory that is blowing dark smoke into the air.

Below the cartoon is a caption that says “Making the battery for an electric car produces the same amount of CO2 as making a gasoline car for eight years”.

This is not a new criticism of electric vehicles. Similar Facebook posts looked at the carbon dioxide created in the manufacture of electric cars – especially batteries – to prevent zero-emission vehicles from not necessarily being clean.

All-electric vehicles need a large lithium-ion battery to store energy and power the engine that powers the car, according to Insider. The lithium-ion batteries in an electric car are chemically similar to those in cell phones and laptops.

Because they require a mixture of metals to be extracted and refined, lithium-ion batteries use more energy than the common lead-acid batteries used in gasoline cars to start the engine.

How much CO2 is released during production depends on where the lithium-ion battery is manufactured – or specifically on how the electricity for the factory is generated – according to Zeke Hausfather, climate researcher and director of climate and energy at Breakthrough Institutes. a think tank for environmental research.

Making a 75-kilowatt-hour battery for a Tesla Model 3, considered the bigger end of batteries for electric vehicles, would result in 4,500 kilograms of CO2 emissions if made at the Tesla battery factory in Nevada. That’s the equivalent of driving a gas-powered sedan for 1.4 years at an average annual distance of 12,000 miles, Hausfather said.

If the battery were made in Asia, it would produce 7,500 kg of carbon dioxide when it was made, or the equivalent of driving a gasoline-powered sedan for 2.4 years – but still not nearly the eight years listed in the Facebook post. Hausfather said the greater amount of emissions in Asia was due to the “higher carbon power mix”. The continent relies more on coal for power generation, while Tesla’s Nevada facility uses solar power.

“More than half of the emissions associated with making the battery are related to electricity consumption,” Hausfather said in an email to PolitiFact. “With the decarbonization of the power grid, the emissions associated with battery production will decrease. The same does not apply to the tailpipe emissions of sedans.”

The Facebook post does not mention the electricity needs and CO2 impact of factories that build gasoline or diesel cars and their components.

Another thing that the Facebook post leaves out is that the CO2 released during the manufacture of the battery in an electric car can be offset over a short period of time by the absence of tailpipe emissions during operation.

The Union of Concerned Scientists found in a 2015 report that when you factor in the power sources to charge, an electric vehicle reduces greenhouse gas emissions by about 50% compared to a gas-powered car of similar size.

A mid-size vehicle completely negates the carbon dioxide its production emits when driving 4,900 miles, according to the report. 19,000 miles are required for full size cars.

The Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Bureau also looked at the life cycle of electric vehicles – including how a car was made, used, and disposed of – and concluded that they produce fewer greenhouse gases and smog than gasoline-powered vehicles.

The agency also found that drivers could further reduce CO2 emissions by charging with electricity from renewable energy sources.

Our decision

A cartoon shared on Facebook claims that the carbon dioxide released when making an electric car battery is equivalent to driving a gas-powered vehicle for eight years.

The production of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars emits a significant amount of carbon dioxide, but it is nowhere near the level stated in the cartoon. Emissions from battery production are the same as driving a gasoline car for a year or two depending on where it is produced, and these emissions are effectively offset over time by the absence of tailpipe emissions on the road.

We judge this claim to be largely false.


Facebook post, April 29, 2021

Facebook post, September 22, 2020

Insider: “Electric cars may be the future, but they are still critically flawed in a key area,” November 13, 2019

Gizmodo, “The Dirty Truth About Green Batteries,” April 17, 2019

Email with Zeke Hausfather, May 7, 2021

International Clean Transport Council, “The Impact of Battery Manufacturing on Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Life Cycle of Electric Vehicles,” 9 February 2018

Union of Concerned Scientists, “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave,” November 2015

The U.S. Department of Energy, Reducing Pollution With Electric Vehicles, accessed it on May 7, 2021


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