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Electric, Hybrid or Gasoline: Illusion, Fusion or Confusion

Guest Post by Jagmeet Singh, Principal, Manufacturing Management Consulting Services, Infosys Limited

Ok, so here is what the big deal is about. What type of vehicle has the lowest carbon footprint and is most eco-friendly. At first instance, it would look like electric vehicle is the best without a doubt. No tailpipe emissions and hence no harm to the environment. Well, this is not the complete picture. Rather this starts another interesting debate.


What one would miss in taking that call is the source of electric energy that electric vehicle would consume for charging and unfortunately in today's world, the source is still primarily COAL and hence huge amount of carbon emissions right at the source!

By the time one deliberates the above fact, comes another verdict published by Ricardo, which claims "electric and hybrid cars have a higher carbon footprint during production than conventional vehicles, but still offer a lower footprint over the full life cycle". So shall we ignore source and production for the sake of long run and at the same time break the myth/illusion about EVs? This definitely confuses a person who would like to do his or her bit towards a better future.

So, I thought of taking help of mathematical models. And for calculating carbon footprint and environmental impact, the best approach seems to be Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).  I looked into research paper, blogs, and many more articles on the subject. I read some very interesting insights ranging from battery type to vehicle weight and fuel type. And the more I read the more I got interested in the subject resulting finally into a confused verdict.  Yes, that is right.

Even LCA methodology has some limitations today because of unavailability of an algorithm standard. Not only that, every input factor like country, state and local region power supply generated different results. Some purely focused on the source of power and declared verdict. Others focused on emissions in vehicle use phase and yet others talked about EOL (End Of Lifecycle) to finally make an argument.

Now, if I were to buy vehicle today it would purely be my decision as to what I consider the most important factor to environmental pollution. Be it source of energy, consumer phase, EOL or something else.

What would you consider?


Nice insights into a situation we predominantly thought there was only one solution. My personal choice remains the same. What is it? Not now! :)

Hi Jagmeet,

An apt blog, especially in the current times, when the world is moving towards green way of life.

To alleviate consumer dilemma which I am sure is faced by many others like you, I’ll suggest a single numerical unit which rates the carbon footprint of the product/service from Cradle to Grave, something similar to Power Rating (BEE Star, Bureau of Energy Efficiency) in the case of white goods. Let the consumers decide!

The content is nice and really put me to think about my next investment for buying a car..

Although, I think it would be great if you could provide some details of the LCA and some examples of the LCA results you might have got.

In all, it was a great read and I was mesmerized by the number of approaches and result, coz a normal person like me would not bother to digg
into it so deeply.

Hi Jags,

This is really a precise and crisp information. If possible please try including the relative costing comparison for varoius factors under consideration.

Hi Jagmeet,
Really Nice article. Provides new insights as normally people tends to think that Electric products are more Green and helps sustaining environment.
I could see inception of big discussion where data coming from experts, Research papers, blog will help providing directions to corporates and individuals in deciding what product to go for, based on expected usage..

Jagmeet, would be great if you can post data points based on your research so far..

Good Work!!!!

As a consumer if I want to reduce the Carbon footprint I will definitely want to go for an Electric Vehicle or a Hybrid.
But the only thing that concerns me is the price of the Electric Vehicle, which is much higher than the same gasoline variant.

Hi Jagmeet,

You have really done a deep research on this subject. I completely agree with the conclusion given at the end that it's purely individual's choice what he decides.

On a separate note, whether pollution generated in the process of electricity generation is higher or burning fuel in vehicles? It is really hard to quantify. If we have to reduce carbon footprint we will have to reduce power consumption, be it electricity or fuel. Do we really give a thought to this aspect in our lives?

A realistic dilemma that a true Car cum Environment patron is faced with today. Add automobile + power engineering awareness into the equation, you stir-up a hornet’s nest. Jury is still not out with even the major carmakers taking sides. While treating any parameter in isolation maybe sub optimal, lack of universally acceptable LCA unit, threatens to take the fun out of car buying.
Geo-Politico-Economic situations altering the fossil fuel equation combined with Emission legislations, seem to be setting clear tone for an ‘Electric’ future. Technology needs to join the party to enhance batteries, develop portable “Alternative energy” generators and also bridge the cost difference between cars. Simultaneously Automakers & Lawmakers need to evolve sustainable yet simple metric.
Till then, we might have to do our bit by riding a bike to the Car Pool lot….!!!! Save Money – Stay Fit….An effective fusion….No illusion or Confusion.

I think future belongs to Solar Power vehicle, that will be surely carbon-safe. Do you see any carbon-footprints in that form of energy too? Nice article to read.

The LCA model is still not as mature as required. Given the over all carbon footprint, Hybrid on CNG is better choice.

BTW, Did you look up the LCA for cars powered by natural gas? Will like see the comparision of all 4 in paper.

A very informative blog considering to the changing times in todays world where the world is rapidly moving and adopting the "GREEN WAY" of manufacturing newer products and services.

In a country like India where everything is driven by consumer sentiments and needs, the best possible bet is to go with the consumer phase where in people are left with the option to decide "which type of vehicle would they want to ride on..?"

I would definitely like to read about the LCA's and EOL models that you threw the light upon in your next blogs, though the cost benefit analysis and the need based analysis need to be done to come to a conclusion wherein we can maintain a balance between customer demands and their sustainability

As far as my thinking goes, i am more concerned with the source rather than the outcomes..therefore reducing the carbon footprints at the start of the life cycle would only let the finished product to be useful to the society and the world.

At the end thank you very much for bringing such a nice thought and perspective into our notice which will definitely be useful for us in future.

Keep writing..!!!

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