Electric vehicles, or EVs, offer a variety of benefits, says Dominic Dattero-Snell, an engineering PhD researcher at Cardiff University with expertise in sustainable transport. With no tailpipe emissions, EVs are less polluting and cheaper to refuel than petrol or diesel cars.
But according to 2018 analysis from UK non-profit Zemo, while a new EV will produce overall lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than a petrol car over its lifetime, manufacturing can account for anywhere between 20% to 95% of the emissions associated with an electric vehicle (depending on the source of electricity). A 2021 report from the non-profit International Council of Clean Transportation says that overall EV manufacturing in Europe for a medium-sized car creates two metric tons more in CO2 equivalent than manufacturing a conventional car.
Converting an existing vehicle bypasses manufacturing, and upcycling old cars is a more efficient use of resources, says Dattero-Snell. “Not having to extract new raw materials in the production of a mostly new, functional vehicle is a huge win,” he adds.