It could take almost 70,000 miles for an EV to be more eco-friendly than a petrol car

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Buying a new electric vehicle is more eco-friendly in the long run, but it can take years for its carbon footprint to drop below that of a petrol equivalent, according to new research.

Volvo is releasing a Life Cycle Assessment for its EVs to bring more transparency for those looking to buy more eco-friendly vehicles, and has just released its findings for the new C40 Recharge EV.

The study compared emissions from the production process, through ownership and finally disposing of the car, based on a 125,000-mile life cycle.

Volvo C40 Recharge, Fjord Blue
(Volvo)

Volvo compared the C40 Recharge to a petrol-engined XC40, finding that the EV is more economical in the long run – but it takes years to get there.

According to the Swedish firm’s studies, the C40 Recharge is responsible for 70 per cent higher emissions than the XC40 in the production process, which comes from higher material use and the large battery.

However, emissions are so much lower in the use phase that across the lifetime of the vehicle, the EV emits less.

Volvo calculated emissions in the use phase in three ways – firstly based on the owner recharging on the global electricity mix, then based on the typical EU mix, and finally using electricity solely produced through wind power.

It takes about 30,000 miles to break even with the XC40 if electricity is produced through wind power, about 48,000 miles on the average EU mix, or almost 70,000 miles on the global mix.

According to the RAC Foundation, the average car in the UK travelled 6,800 miles in 2020, meaning it would take about seven years for the C40 Recharge to become more eco-friendly than the petrol XC40 if charged with a typical EU electricity mix.

For company car drivers that figure rises dramatically to 13,200 miles, meaning it would take about three and a half years.

Based on Volvo’s estimation of a 125,000-mile vehicle life and the average car travelling 6,800 miles per year, the C40 Recharge would be on the road for about 18 years.

The study has prompted Volvo to call on world leaders and energy providers to ‘significantly boost investments in clean energy’ to help EVs reach their ‘true potential in terms of climate benefit’.

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