Volvo says clean energy investment needed to realise EV climate potential

Volvo has called for a boost in investment for clean energy in order for electric vehicles to deliver their true potential in terms of climate benefit.

The call coincides with a newly published report into the overall lifecycle carbon emissions of Volvo Cars’ latest fully electric car, which shows the huge potential CO2 reductions if a car is built and charged using clean energy sources.

It also comes as heads of government and captains of industry are meeting at the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss and announce revised plans for reductions in carbon emissions to fight climate change.

Volvo Cars aims to become a fully electric car maker by 2030 and plans to roll out a whole new family of pure electric cars in the coming years, one of the industry’s most ambitious electrification plans. This is part of its ambition to become a climate-neutral company by 2040, as it works to consistently cut carbon emissions across its business.

However, it says that it will need the help of governments and the energy sector if its cars are to realise their full carbon reduction potential. As the new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) report for the Volvo C40 Recharge shows, the availability of clean energy for both manufacturing and charging an electric Volvo makes a huge difference in terms of CO2 impact.

According to Volvo, when a driver charges a C40 Recharge with clean energy, such as wind power, the CO2 lifecycle impact of the car is less than half that of a traditional, combustion-engine-powered Volvo XC40. It added that when charging with electricity generated through fossil fuels, that difference becomes much smaller.

Håkan Samuelsson, chief executive of Volvo Cars, said: “We made a conscious strategic decision to become a fully electric car maker and an industry leader, but we can’t make the transition to climate neutrality alone.

“We need governments and energy firms around the globe to step up their investments in clean energy capacity and related charging infrastructure, so fully electric cars can truly fulfil their promise of cleaner mobility.”

The company’s views are echoed in the 2021 World Energy Investment report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which points out that while clean energy investments are on “a moderate upswing”, those planned investments “remain far below what is required to avoid severe impacts from climate change”.

According to the IEA report, global clean energy investments “would need to double in the 2020s to maintain temperatures well below a 2°C rise, and more than triple in order to keep the door open for a 1.5°C stabilisation” of global temperature rises.

Clean energy is also an important factor in reducing the carbon footprint involved in producing an electric car. The LCA reveals that production emissions of a C40 Recharge are 70% higher than for a petrol-powered XC40. This is mainly due to the carbon intensity of battery and steel production, as well as from the increased share of aluminium in the car.

Volvo Cars says it is taking active steps to address these emissions, including through planned collaborations with SSAB to develop fossil-free steel and with its battery suppliers to produce batteries using 100% renewable energy.

The company seeks to reduce the lifecycle carbon footprint per average car by 40% between 2018 and 2025, including through reducing carbon emissions in its supply chain by 25% by 2025.

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