Do you remember how you have been leaving a few carrots and a glass of milk for when Santa visits you? You might have noticed that since Santa modernized his fleet a little, he would now prefer an EV charger as his reindeer don’t run on carrots anymore – and fortunately not on diesel either.
Santa needs to charge the (e-)sleigh
With (ultra)low and zero-emission zones popping up across Europe, more and more Christmas gifts will be delivered by electric vans or cargo bikes with electric support. Postmen will hop onto e-bikes with Christmas cards, and you will head to the Christmas market on board of the fully electric bus. If you’re in a rush, you might take a shared e-scooter or an electric moped. And after many toasts, you will probably use ride-hailing, which is likely to arrive as a hybrid or fully electric vehicle too. Christmas (rightfully) keeps becoming more and more electric. As highlighted by T&E, freight emissions during the Christmas period more than double. The excessive CO2 emissions resulting from transporting Christmas is the equivalent of 9,500 return flights from Paris to New York! The transition to electric engines is an obvious step towards a sustainable future.
How green is green?
Awaited electric future, however, has its own shortcomings. The growing number of EVs (electric vehicles:
cars, mopeds, e-scooter, e-bikes, vans, trucks) translates into an increasing number of batteries required to run them. These use the scarce (and finite) resources of our planet and larger deployments of electric fleets will amplify the challenge. Lithium and rare earths are soon likely to become scarcer than gas and oil! In the future we might experience shortages of batteries, but most of all - excess of used batteries that post-life market will not be able to handle. And while using EVs does not cause CO2 emissions, the production of batteries to use them surely does. In fact, producing the battery is the most CO2-intense process of its entire life cycle, emitting a minimum 150kg CO2 per kWh. If we take the example of battery used in Tesla 3, that translates to an equivalent of up to 65.000km driven in an average car (1.5 trips around the world) emitted only during production!(1) That immense environmental footprint forces us to make all the effort to maximize the lifecycle of each battery and there’s much to win. Based on ISO14044-compliant LCA, upcycling batteries reduces lifetime battery emissions by 48%.(2)
Your choices make the difference
Which role plays the total environmental impact of the product or service in your purchasing choices? As a consumer, you have all the rights to receive information on how companies will approach the post-life processing of the batteries they use. Various legislative efforts are being made to ensure that consumers have access to information about environmental and societal performance. While some large companies have the obligation to report on these aspects due to Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, others
voluntarily publish their sustainability reports. In December, a provisional political agreement has been achieved in the European Parliament pm a regulation concerning specifically batteries.(3) The more pressure is created around the aspect of transparency of handling batteries, the more effort companies will put into making the right choices – for their consumers, their own wallets, and most of all, the Earth.
In the Christmas rush, do not forget that when the diesel engine was invented, we also used to think it is a revolution – but we were neither aware nor ready for its long-term implications on the environment.
Today we can revolutionize transportation once more, but we need to think one step ahead of today’s choices – so when you decide what is going to fall under your Christmas tree, make sure that (e-)sleigh that delivers is treated all the way with the most recent innovative solutions. And that the footprint it leaves behind is only the happiness of the gifted one.
(1) Iris Crawford, MIT Climate Portal Writing: How much CO2 is emitted by manufacturing batteries? (2022)
(2) compared to a traditional battery 1 life cycle
(3) European Parliament’s press releases: Batteries: deal on new EU rules for design, production and waste treatment (9/12/2022)