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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UNFCCC Secretariat

“The Aether team were a joy to work with and I would recommend the consultancy - the service provided throughout the process was exceptional.”

Clare Bayley, Defra

“Aether delivered training workshops and generated learning materials for our SSN members, providing technical content in a manageable and comprehendible format. We particularly benefitted from their extensive knowledge and ability to interpret the needs of our members into the training materials.”

Jennifer Anderson, Sustainable Scotland Network

“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 professional service provided by your company was of very high quality and completed within agreed timelines.”

Matthew Dudley, UNFCCC Secretariat

“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

“Aether's approach to couple innovative visualisation with high expertise manpower delivered valuable insights for our inventory work.”

Umweltbundesamt (Germany)

“Aether is a great partner for work in the area of European Air Emissions. The team was committed, reliable, well organised and had a deep technical understanding and motivated other partners with their good spirit.”

Umweltbundesamt: Environment Agency Austria

“Both the face-to-face training and the online version have been of high quality, with dynamic methods and a practical orientation that have allowed students to reach a solid knowledge base. The products have been delivered within the stipulated deadlines with an excellent quality and the team has always shown willingness to make adjustments according to the requirements of CONAF. We are very satisfied with the work. ”

Javier Cano Martín, Professional Unit for Climate Change and Environmental Services, CONAF (National Forestry Corporation), Chile

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