Many people still have doubts about whether the lower emissions of driving an electric car outweighs the additional impact on the environment caused by manufacturing the batteries.
Two studies (the latter is more trustworthy than the former) show that electric cars do help to reduce the CO2 emission. But how much – it depends.
If the batteries are produced in a country where the industry is polluting more (China), reductions will be lower. If the car is driven in a country where electricity is produced by burning things (like Estonia or Poland) the reductions will be lower or even negative.
A special case is Japan, where cars are so fuel-efficient, that electric cars even raise emissions.
So, YES, electric cars are more often better than not.
What: Top = Lifetime emissions of cars in tonnes of CO2. Bottom = Lifetime emissions of cars in grams of CO2 per 1 kilometer.
When: Top = Estimate for 2020, Bottom = Estimate for 2030 with “current technological trajectory” scenario.
Where: Top = EU countries, Bottom = selected countries of the world.
Source: Top = European Federation for Transport and Environment, Bottom = Knobloch, F., Hanssen, S., Lam, A. et al. Net emission reductions from electric cars and heat pumps in 59 world regions over time. Nat Sustain (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0488-7