At Hydro-Québec’s request, the Interuniversity Research Centre for the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services (CIRAIG) undertook a comparative life-cycle assessment of electric vehicles and conventional vehicles in the Québec context.
The goal was to determine the degree to which the use of an electric vehicle powered by electricity generated in Québec can be environmentally beneficial compared to a conventional vehicle.
The potential impacts were assessed based on the following indicators: Human health, Ecosystem quality, Climate change, Depletion of fossil resources and Depletion of mineral resources.
Most of the environmental impacts of electric vehicles are associated to their manufacturing. With conventional vehicles, it is their use that generates the greatest impact. In fact, at the time of purchase, the impacts of electric vehicles are more significant than those of conventional vehicles. However, after accounting for 300,000 km of travel, electric vehicles have 55% to 80% less impacts than conventional vehicles. These values exclude the Depletion of mineral resources indicator, which favors conventional vehicles.
The impacts of the vehicles vary based on a number of factors such as their mass, energy efficiency and use conditions. This study performed an exhaustive evaluation of the influence of these factors.
Overall, the results differ based on use conditions and distance travelled. The longer the distance travelled, the greater the advantage of electric vehicles. Therefore, electric vehicles represent a better environmental choice than conventional vehicles in a Québec context.
- CIRAIG. Comparative life-cycle assessment: potential environmental impacts of electric vehicles and conventional vehicles in the Québec context, [PDF 13 Mb – in French only], 2016, 95 p. and ann.
- CIRAIG. Addendum to the comparative life-cycle assessment report on the potential environmental impacts of electric vehicles and conventional vehicles in the Québec context, [PDF 2.8 Mb – in French only], 2015, 15 p. Note: This addendum assesses the impacts of using different electricity mixes to charge an electric vehicle.