Scania finds battery electric vehicles environmentally superior

Scania has published what it claims to be a first in the heavy commercial vehicle industry – a life cycle assessment (LCA) of distribution vehicles.

In the LCA, the company concludes that the environmental impact of battery electric vehicles is significantly lower than that of equivalent vehicles with an internal combustion engine.

The Life Cycle Assessment is an ISO 14040/44 method used to calculate the environmental impacts of products, covering the entire life cycle from cradle to grave, starting at the extracting and refining of raw materials and ending at the recycling of, in this case, the various parts of the vehicles at the end of their useful lives.

“As the heavy commercial vehicle industry converts into a higher share of battery electric vehicles, we have to ask ourselves, are the battery electric vehicles truly good for the environment when we consider the full life cycle?” said Scania Head of Sustainability, Andreas Follér.

“The impact generated is not just from the tailpipe emissions, so the industry needs to rethink what we mean by environmental impact. With this study, we have the clear answers.”

In its LCA, Scania confirmed that the production of the battery electric vehicle entails a higher environmental impact, mainly due to energy intensive battery cell manufacturing.

Yet despite the increased production burden, the total life cycle impact on purported environmental factors is dramatically better for the battery electric vehicles, thanks to the much lower carbon impact during the use phase.

According to Scania, the battery electric vehicle already has the potential to have less climate impact within one or two years of operation than one with an internal combustion engine. This covers all investigated electricity mixes in the report.

While the company stated that battery cells represent a bit over 40 per cent of the carbon emissions coming from production of battery electric vehicles, it asserted that there is a big potential for reduced emission levels as the battery industry continuously decarbonises through the greater use of green electricity.

“We expect that the total cost of operation for the majority of our customers will be positive for battery electric vehicles during this decade and that half our volumes might well have an electric driveline by 2030,” said Follér.

“The race towards zero emissions will be about decarbonising the processes including manufacturing of materials needed to assemble the future trucks and buses.”

Partnerships are key to delivering on the carbon reductions needed to achieve the Science Based Targets to which it has committed, Scania said.

For example, the company has a partnership with Northvolt which aims to produce the world’s greenest battery.

Steel is another big part of the carbon footprint of trucks, due to the heavy reliance on fossil fuels in the production phase.

A partnership with H2 Green Steel aspires to rectify that and set Scania on a trajectory for a Zero Emission Truck, which the company plans to deliver on in 2030.

Former Scania CEO and President Henrik Henriksson announced he was departing the organisation to take the position of Managing Director at H2 Green Steel back in April.