New IEA Online Tool Compares Lifecycle Emissions From Traditional and Electric Cars

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a new interactive tool that allows users to explore the greenhouse gas emissions of passenger cars with different powertrains – battery electric, conventional and plug-in hybrid.

The calculator takes into account the entire lifecycle of the cars – from raw materials and mining to production and end-use – to provide a precise estimate of the direct and indirect emissions of different types of vehicles.

IEA analysis shows that under today’s policy settings alone, almost one in six cars on the road will be electric by 2030, with significant impacts for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If countries’ announced energy and climate pledges are met in full and on time, the rate of uptake of electric vehicles would be even greater.

The new online calculator allows users to select variables such as car size, type of powertrain, average fuel economy and lifetime for a selection of regions and countries around the world, and then to explore those variables’ impacts on lifetime emissions.

The user can also select other considerations, such as typical usage for a city commuter or an infrequent driver, to explore the effect of different driving profiles on a car’s lifecycle emissions. The tool lays out the multiple factors that affect the emissions profile of different vehicle types, providing relevant insights for policy makers and consumers alike.

The tool also allows users to set and adjust assumptions about energy supply. These include the emissions intensity of electricity production or, in the case of conventional and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the level of biofuel blending in fossil fuels, as well as the associated emissions, both today and in future scenarios.

This allows users to visualise the effects on a car’s future emissions of progress in decarbonising relevant sectors – including in a scenario based on today’s policy settings, and one in which the world is on track for net zero emissions by 2050.

Lifecycle assessment can provide a big picture view of the emissions of a product, process or service across its lifecycle. In the case of electric vehicles, lifecycle assessment accounts for emissions from mining of critical minerals for batteries, as well as the electricity generation mix used to power the vehicle.

The EV Life Cycle Assessment Calculator was developed under the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Global Programme to Support Countries with the Shift to Electric Mobility. The calculator complements the IEA’s Total Costs of Ownership tool, released in December 2022, and the Global EV Outlook 2024, released in April, as well as the Global EV Data Explorer and Global EV Policy Explorer.