Category: International organisations, Policies and measures

Electric vehicles from life cycle and circular economy perspectives

A report written for the European Environment Agency that used an extensive literature review to analyse and synthesis the environmental impacts of electric vehicles though life cycle and circular economy perspectives.

This research report, written by Aether for the European Environment Agency, brings together existing evidence on the environmental impact of battery electric vehicles across their life cycle. Where possible, comparisons are made to internal combustion engine vehicles. The report also considers how a move to a circular economy could reduce the environmental impacts.

The challenge

It is expected that electric vehicles will be a key component of Europe’s future mobility system, with the potential for contributing to a reduction in the impacts of climate change and air pollution. By 2030, battery electric vehicles could represent up to 13% of new car registrations in Europe. This requires a better understanding of the environmental impacts of electric vehicles and to consider how these can be reduced in order to maximise potential benefits.

The solution

This report contributes towards a better understanding of battery electric vehicles from a system perspective. This involves an in-depth consideration of the environmental impact of these vehicles across all life cycle stages as well as taking into account broader considerations with a circular economy perspective. The report highlights areas where improvements could be made to minimise the environmental impacts of battery electric vehicles. It also identifies gaps in understanding where additional research would contribute to a better understanding of these impacts.

The result

Aether produced the report, now published on the European Environment Agency website, here.

Some key findings of the report are:

  • Battery electric vehicles offer important opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution
  • There are areas where battery electric vehicles could have negative environmental impacts such as through raw material extraction
  • There are areas of uncertainty, for example with end-of-life processing
  • The evidence base on electric vehicle life cycle impacts needs to be continually updated and developed. This should reflect the different electric vehicle makes and models, emerging data on real-world use and vehicle end-of-life processes.

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Richard German

Senior Consultant

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Testimonial

Don't just take our word for it...

“If we have a need for any more reports in the future Aether will be first on my list.”

Alan Hardy, Kyson Design

“Aether was a great asset in involving/engaging with Member States experts on highly technical subjects regarding GHG reporting. Very clear communication of issues and results.”

Andreas Pilzecker, DG CLIMA

“The support provided by Aether for this project was especially remarkable considering the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tools and methods used in order to engage local stakeholders really added value to the capacity building of the national team.”

Shanna Emmanuel, Saint Lucia BUR Project Coordinator

“The Aether team were a joy to work with and I would recommend the consultancy - the service provided throughout the process was exceptional. Where there were problems, they provided solutions. The team were working to very short time scales but were able to deliver a high quality piece of work within the specified time frame.”

Sefton Council - for the Merseyside Atmospheric Emissions Inventory

“It has been a pleasure to work with Chris Dore and Richard Claxton from Aether: they did their job in a very professional and timely manner. The workshop was organized and carried out in a cooperative spirit; the information provided to the workshop participants was complete and clear.”

Alina Novikova, UN/ECE Secretariat

“Chris was excellent to work with and always very pro active in making suggestions, taking work forward and applying his considerable technical knowledge in effective ways.”

Robert Vaughan, Defra Air Quality Team

“The team at Aether works very professionally and communicates very well which makes working with them a pleasure. Outputs are delivered on time to high quality. The team brings the rigour of technical knowledge and expertise and finds innovative ways of communicating complex messages. I would be happy to recommend the Aether team to organisations working on analysing and presenting emissions information in the public domain.”

Fiona Glover, States of Jersey

“Professional team and very collaborative communication. Effective result in terms of suggestions for improvement in the quality of the inventory and proposals on how to streamline specific topics.”

Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research

“A heartfelt thank you to all the Aether team for this very comprehensive review – this is certainly turning out to be one of the most beneficial capacity building projects I have ever been involved in.”

Saviour Vassallo, Senior Environment Protection Officer, Malta Resources Authority

“It is always an absolute pleasure working with Aether. I always know what is expected of me. Their work ethic is of a very high standard and projects are always handled in a very professional manner. I have learnt many skills in terms of project management, quality control and workshop training styles from Aether and I hope to carry these principles forward in my own work. I look forward to collaborating with Aether more in the future.”

Luanne Stevens, Gondwana

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