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YSE Study: Electric Vehicles Produce Lower Carbon Emissions through Additional Channels
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YSE Study: Electric Vehicles Produce Lower Carbon Emissions through Additional Channels

New major spending packages Investing billions of dollarsSome analysts are concerned about the sustainability of electric vehicles in the United States. They focus on indirect emissions from the supply chains for vehicle components and fuels that power the electricity that charges them.

However, a Yale School of the Environment study recently found that the Yale School of the Environment is not the only one to have this effect. Published in Nature CommunicationsIt was found that electric vehicles produce a much smaller amount of indirect emissions than vehicles powered by fossil fuels. This is in addition the direct emissions from burning fossil fuels at the tailpipe of conventional vehicles and at the power plant smokestack to generate electricity. Electric vehicles have an obvious advantage emissions-wise.

Postdoctoral associate says the surprising thing was how much lower electric vehicles’ emissions were. Stephanie Weber. The supply chain for combustion engines is so poor that electric cars can’t match it, even when indirect emissions are taken into account.

Weber was a part of the study conducted by Paul Wolfram21 PhD now a postdoc at the University of Maryland’s Joint Global Change Research Institute. This includes YSE economics professor Ken GillinghamAnd Edgar Hertwicha former YSE faculty member and an industrial ecologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The research team incorporated concepts from energy economics, industrial ecology, carbon pricing, lifecycle assessment, and modeling of energy systems to determine whether carbon emissions were still lower when indirect emissions from the electric car supply chain were included.

Gillingham says that electric vehicles pose a major problem because the supply chain (including the mining and processing raw materials, and the manufacture of the batteries) is far from clean. If we were to price the carbon in these processes, electric vehicles would be expected to be extremely expensive. However, this is not the case. If carbon in fossil fuel vehicles supply chain was also priced, electric vehicle sales would increase.

Future technological change was also considered in the study. This strengthened the conclusion that electric vehicles are dominant when indirect supply chain emissions were taken into account.

The Energy Information Administration created a National Energy Modeling System (NEMS), which models the entire U.S. Energy System using detailed information from the current domestic system and a forecast for the future. Wolfram conducted a life-cycle assessment and provided outputs for indirect emissions. These outputs were then plugged in to the NEMS model to determine how a carbon tax would impact the behavior of manufacturers and consumers. Weber was a key contributor to the modification of the NEMS code.

Wolfram claims that the supply chain of fossil fuel-powered cars is the real elephant in the room. He points out that electric vehicles are more efficient in countries with sufficient decarbonized electricity supplies, such as the U.S., where they can be switched to faster.

Gillingham’s research has focused on alternative energy adoption for transportation. This research provides a better understanding about how comprehensive carbon pricing, which includes the entire supply chain, can shift consumers to electric vehicles.

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