Well-to-wheels greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions from battery electric vehicles in China

  • Yali Zheng
  • Xiaoyi He
  • Hewu Wang
  • Michael Wang
  • Shaojun Zhang
  • Dong Ma
  • Binggang Wang
  • Ye WuEmail author
Original Article


Electric vehicles (EVs) play a crucial role in addressing climate change and urban air quality concerns. China has emerged as the global largest EV market with 1.2 million EVs sold in 2018. This study established a novel life cycle energy use and emission inventory collecting up-to-date data including the electricity generation mix, emission controls in the power and industrial sectors, and the energy use in the fuel transport to estimate the well-to-wheels (WTW) greenhouse gas (GHG), and air pollutant emissions for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and gasoline passenger vehicles in China. The results show that an average BEV has 35% lower WTW GHG emissions than an average gasoline car. BEVs reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions by 98% and 34%, respectively, but have comparable or slightly higher primary fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. Compact and small-size vehicles generally have lower GHG and air pollutant emissions than mid- and large-size vehicles. Class A vehicles contribute the most in the absolute amount of GHG and air pollutant emissions and therefore have the biggest potential for emission reduction. Our results suggest that global policymakers should continue to promote the transition to clean power sources, emission control, and fuel economy regulations, which are critical to enhancing emission mitigation benefits of BEVs. We also suggest EV development strategies should be formulated targeting vehicle class with the biggest emission mitigation potentials.


Well-to-wheels analysis Greenhouse gas Air pollutant emissions Battery electric vehicles 



This work is conducted in compliance with the China Society of Automotive Engineers (C-SAE) group standard T/CSAE 91-2018 (Life cycle assessment methods for greenhouse gases and air pollutant emissions of the automobile) released in September 2018.

Funding information

This work is supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (fund NO. 2017YFC0212100).

Supplementary material

11027_2019_9890_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.China Society of Automotive EngineersBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of Environment, and State Key Joint Laboratory of Environment Simulation and Pollution ControlTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.School for Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Automotive Safety and EnergyTsinghua UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  5. 5.Systems Assessment Group, Energy Systems DivisionArgonne National LaboratoryArgonneUSA
  6. 6.Vehicle Emission Control Center, State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Vehicle Emission Control and SimulationChinese Research Academy of Environmental SciencesBeijingChina
  7. 7.State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Sources and Control of Air Pollution ComplexBeijingChina

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