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Whitepaper: Expansion of e-mobility is gradual – but this benefits the environment

Whitepaper: Expansion of e-mobility is gradual – but this benefits the environment

  • E-mobility is growing exponentially worldwide (+78% in 2017), but market share is still only 1%; 85% of newly registered cars will still feature combustion engines in 2025.
  • Electric cars are not necessarily beneficial for the climate – depending on the energy mix, they cause up to 65% less or up to 30% more CO2 emissions.
  • For consumers, electric cars are currently significantly more expensive (around 5 cents/km).
  • Batteries are the biggest bottleneck for electric cars (cost, range, raw material, CO2 emissions during production).

Stuttgart, 25.10.2018 – The transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles plays an important role on a global scale in mitigating man-made climate change. However, this transformation will not take place suddenly, but gradually – and that makes sense ecologically. In many markets, including China, India, the USA and Germany, electric cars are not necessarily beneficial for the climate at present and in the medium term. Instead, they can even cause up to 30% more CO2 emissions than combustion engines. This is the result of an extensive market evaluation conducted by SEG Automotive, a leading global automotive supplier. The analysis is now available free of charge in the form of a whitepaper.

How quickly will e-mobility establish itself and which factors are slowing it down? How environmentally friendly are electric cars already today compared to conventional engines? How does the situation look like from a consumer point of view? And what short-term solutions are available to significantly reduce CO2 emissions even before the breakthrough of e-mobility? These questions are addressed in a new whitepaper by SEG Automotive, which provides a detailed look at the status quo and the development of the world market as well as key regions such as China and the US based on independent sources.


CO2 balance: Why electric cars are not always worth it

E-mobility is undergoing an exponential growth – sales in 2017 rose by 78% year-over-year to 668,000 electric vehicles (EVs). Nevertheless, the market share among new registrations in 2017 only equaled 0.8%. Under the right circumstances, electric vehicles already contribute significantly to climate protection. In countries that generate only a small proportion of their power from fossil fuels (e.g. France and Norway), an EV saves more than 50% of CO2 emissions over its entire life cycle, compared to an efficient combustion engine [Source: ICCT]. In many key markets, such as the USA, India, China and even Germany, electricity production is a lot less clean – to the degree that pure electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids (PHEV) are only worthwhile to a limited extent or even have a negative impact on the climate in the long term compared to an efficient combustion engine.

Globally, only 26% of power came from renewable sources in 2017 [Source: IEA]. Even in 2040, according to current forecasts, only 31% of the world’s electricity demand will be provided by renewable energy – as a result, most of the emissions are only shifted from the engine to a fossil power plant [Source: EIA].


Range of saved/additional CO2 emissions based on energy mix


Consumer perspective: Electric cars are significantly more expensive

The higher acquisition costs of EVs are only amortized to a limited extent. Ultimately, an EV will cost the driver an extra 5 cents per kilometer over their lifetime – in addition to an uncertain resale value. EVs and combustion engines face diverse challenges when it comes to driving restrictions: Range limitations, charging times and charging infrastructure will continue to deter many buyers from purchasing an EV in the near term. On the other hand, internal combustion engines are already subject to occasional local driving bans or registration restrictions, which prove to be quite effective to influence purchase behavior.


EVs and PHEVs have a much higher total cost of ownership


Among these imperfect choices, many consumers will ultimately choose a combustion engine, as long as it seems the best solution for their individual mobility requirements. According to current forecasts, 85% of passenger cars will therefore still be produced with an internal combustion engine in 2025. CO2 emissions for these vehicles must be kept as low as possible.


Batteries are a bottleneck for EVs

Further breakthroughs in regards to battery technology are essential, since batteries are significantly handicapping EVs in regards to several aspects:

  • Significant additional manufacturing costs (around $200 per kWh)
  • High emissions during battery production (150 - 200 kg per kWh) – a "mortgage" that is difficult to offset even over the entire life cycle
  • Rare raw materials with sharply increasing prices, partly mined in crisis regions (e.g. cobalt)
  • Delivery bottlenecks that delay projects (e.g. Hyundai Ioniq Electric)
  • Limited range discourages potential buyers


Historical and expected development of battery prices



Expected surge in demand for key metals in EV batteries



48V hybrid technology as a viable alternative

In countries that generate most of their electricity from fossil fuels, a 48V hybrid constitutes the most climate-friendly solution now and also in the long term. For this the conventional alternator is replaced by a 48V Boost Recuperation Machine (BRM). It employs the braking force recovery technology ("recuperation") familiar from Formula 1 to reduce fuel consumption up to 15%, which will be indispensable for achieving CO2 emission targets in the near and medium term. The solution also proves beneficial for consumers – in contrast to EVs and PHEVs, the additional costs of 48V are amortized through fuel savings.


CO2 footprint small car (50,000 km mileage)




CO2 footprint upper middle class (150,000 km mileage)


Key markets: China is leading the way

China has established itself as the largest car market in the world and is also leading in terms of EV sales. With a comprehensive package of measures (subsidies, local driving bans for combustion engines, CO2 targets), the government in Beijing continues to actively promote this transformation. In China, however, 70% of electricity comes from coal, so electric cars keep cities clean, but do not yet make a significant contribution to climate protection.




The other key markets (USA, Europe and India) are similarly struggling with the energy mix. The shift towards EVs is also progressing even more slowly in these countries. The USA and Europe in particular face the risk of losing their leadership role in the automotive industry.

In all these regions, it is also becoming apparent that the current CO2 targets can only be achieved if emissions from combustion engines are reduced drastically. Especially the 48V and start/stop technologies have an important role to play in this regard.

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SEG Automotive
Christoph Hoelzl
Press Officer / Pressesprecher
Tel. +49 711 4009 – 8172