Abstract Electric vehicles have recently been gaining increasing worldwide interest as a promising potential long-term solution to sustainable personal mobility; in particular, battery electric vehicles (BEVs ) offer zero tailpipe emissions. However, their true ability to contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions can only be properly assessed by comparing a life cycle assessment of their GHG emissions with a similar assessment for conventional internal combustion vehicles (ICVs). This paper presents an analysis for vehicles typically expected to be introduced in 2015 in two example markets (the UK and California), taking into account the impact of three important factors: • Like-for-like vehicle comparison and effect of real-world driving conditions. • Accounting for the GHG emissions associated with meeting the additional electricity demand for charging the batteries. • GHG emissions associated with vehicle manufacture, disposal, etc. This work demonstrates that all of these factors are important and emphasises that it is therefore crucial to clearly define the context when presenting conclusions about the relative GHG performance of BEVs and ICVs – such relative performance depends on a wide range of factors, including the marginal regional grid GHG intensity, vehicle size, driving pattern, loading, etc.

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