(Why) Should I (not) buy EVs in APAC?
At the risk of losing the reader’s interest after the first paragraph: there’s no charging infrastructure in Asia, EVs are expensive to source, and coal is used to generate the electricity used to charge the EVs. So, you shouldn’t buy BEVs in APAC.
But it’s not that simple. Let’s have a closer look.
In the fleet world, we’re used to looking at CO2 emissions; although a good reflection of how clean our fleet is, it’s only a part of the story. Lifecycle assessments (or LCAs) go further and consider the GHG emissions generated by fuel and electricity production, as well as the production, maintenance, and recycling of passenger cars. In other words: it’s the whole story.
The International Council of Clean Transportation – icct in short – has done an LCA comparison between ICE vehicles and BEV vehicles in Europe, US, China and India and published the results in a white paper.
A few highlights
First, regardless of the region, BEVs are not zero-emission vehicles. The production process, logistics, batteries, and disposal of the vehicles, add emissions on top of their utilization which is powered by electricity that is not generated by renewable sources of energy. As such, in 2021, a BEV driving in Europe is more sustainable than an ICE vehicle, but only for about 60% to 68%.
India and China deliver worse results: an EV driving in China emits only 37% to 45% less than an ICE vehicle and the same vehicle in India decreases emissions by a mere 19% to 34% only. For reference, hydrogen – at least today and from an LCA perspective – performs just as modestly at about 26% to 40% less emissions compared to a gasoline vehicle.
Concretely, in China, an ICEV emits over 250 g/km and a BEV emits around 160 g/km. These figures will vary from country to country, but it paints a picture that is valid across APAC.
So, let’s not buy BEVs in Asia?
You should, and here is why: there is no option for decarbonization of combustion engine vehicles. HEVs do improve the efficiency of an ICEV, but only about 20% whilst PHEVs improve their efficiency with 6% to 12% only (China data).
To reduce emissions even further, BEVs are the only option, and their sustainability performance will improve as the production process will become cleaner and electricity will be produced from renewable energies.
Timing however, as well as charger availability and other supply chain limitations, is important. Therefore, tips for electrification in APAC are:
- At least, replace all ICE vehicles with HEVs in the next renewal cycles. It doesn’t deliver a massive improvement, but you will be able to report a 20% decrease of emissions
- Monitor the availability of charging infrastructure. This will most likely be different from country to country and, within countries, from city to city, but expect an infrastructure boost in the next few years in all business cities
- Start the change process with your APAC stakeholders today: awareness about sustainability is limited, compared to Europe or the US
- Buy a few office chargers and do pilots with a electric or electrified vehicles, especially on sites that host local leadership
- Involve your Facility Management & procurement colleagues to source for renewable energy to power the chargers
- Consider mobility options
Even if ambitions in APAC need to be realistic, these first steps are very achievable and will contribute to the long-term targets. Nonetheless, be clear in your stakeholder comms that carbon neutral by 2025 or even 2030 is not possible in APAC. From a LCA perspective, it will take most Asian countries well beyond 2050 to transition to renewable energy.