Research Brief

Life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of U.S. sedans and SUVs with different powertrains and fuel sources

A detailed assessment of vehicle life-cycle emissions (including emissions from battery and vehicle manufacturing, feedstock and fuel production, vehicle use, and end-of-life disposal) is critical for understanding the net greenhouse gas (GHG) advantages of BEVs relative to other technologies. This brief updates a 2021 ICCT analysis and estimates the life-cycle emissions of four common passenger vehicle powertrains in the United States: internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and BEVs. It considers average model year 2024 vehicles and projected model year 2030 vehicles.

For both sedans and SUVs, results show that BEVs have the lowest life-cycle GHG emissions across all powertrains. The GHG emissions of model year 2024 PHEV sedans and SUVs are roughly 2 times higher than BEVs powered by the average grid mix assuming real-world electric drive shares. Model year 2024 HEVs are estimated to emit 2.2 times (sedans) and 2.5 times (SUVs) more life-cycle GHG emissions than BEVs powered by the average grid, and conventional ICE vehicles emit up to 3.5 times (SUVs) more. Compared with BEVs powered by 100% renewable electricity, this difference increases to 4.9 times more GHG emissions for HEV SUVs and 6.7 times more for conventional ICE SUVs.

For new vehicles projected to be sold in 2030, the relative benefits of BEVs are even larger. Conventional ICE SUVs were estimated to have 7.5 times higher life-cycle GHG emissions than BEVs powered by 100% renewable electricity. While PHEVs and HEVs have a lower GHG footprint than ICE vehicles, their emissions reduction potential is more limited than for BEVs, which not only deliver emissions reduction at the tailpipe, but across the entire vehicle lifetime for representative sedans and SUVs sold in the United States.