The Role of Silicon in Decarbonizing Vehicle Life Cycle Emissions: A Perspective on HPQ Silicon’s Technology

by Team HPQ

This article delves into the life cycle emissions of different types of vehicles—battery electric, hybrid, and internal combustion engine vehicles—and highlights the crucial role sustainable silicon solutions, particularly those offered by HPQ Silicon, can play in reducing these emissions. By enhancing battery efficiency and revolutionizing the production process, HPQ Silicon’s technology holds the potential to transform the electric vehicle landscape, paving the way for a more sustainable future.

The Issue

The transportation sector, contributing 37% of all CO₂ emissions from end-use sectors in 2021, is one of the most significant contributors to global carbon emissions. As we move towards a carbon-neutral economy, it becomes crucial to understand and compare the life cycle emissions of different types of vehicles—battery electric vehicles (BEVs), hybrid electric vehicles, and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

In this context, the role of innovative companies like HPQ Silicon, which provide sustainable silicon solutions, becomes crucially important.

The Life Cycle Emissions Breakdown

Visual Capitalist, a platform focused on making the world’s information more accessible through graphics, published an article titled: Life Cycle Emissions: EVs vs. Combustion Engine Vehicles.

The article discusses the life cycle emissions of three types of vehicles: battery electric vehicles (BEVs), hybrid electric vehicles, and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. It uses data from the International Energy Agency, the Polestar and Rivian’s Pathway Report, and a McKinsey & Company study to comprehensively compare the greenhouse gas emissions across the life cycle of these vehicles. The life cycle emissions include the emissions from vehicle production, use, and disposal.

One of the key graphics in the article breaks down the emissions in terms of metric tons of CO₂ equivalent (tCO₂e) for each stage of a vehicle’s life cycle for a medium-sized vehicle over 16 years and a distance of 240,000 km. The findings are as follows:

Battery electric vehicle (BEV): 39 tCO₂e
Hybrid electric vehicle:
47 tCO₂e
Internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle:
55 tCO₂e

At first glance, BEVs emerge as the most environmentally friendly option, boasting the lowest life cycle emissions among the three types of vehicles. However, a closer look reveals that the journey toward lower emissions is not as straightforward as it might appear.


Life Cycle Emissions: EVs vs. Combustion Engine Vehicles (Graphic by Visual Capitalist)

The Production Paradox

Interestingly, the production emissions for BEVs are approximately 40% higher than those of hybrid and ICE vehicles. This is primarily due to the energy-intensive extraction and refining of raw materials like lithium, cobalt, and nickel, required for battery production, and the BEVs’ manufacturing process. These findings present a ‘production paradox’—while BEVs are championed for their potential to reduce emissions during the use phase, their production process is inherently carbon-intensive.

The Challenge of Electricity Production

The data further reveals that electricity production is the most emission-intensive stage in a BEV’s life cycle. Decarbonizing the electricity sector by implementing renewable and nuclear energy sources could significantly reduce these vehicles’ use phase emissions, highlighting the intertwined nature of our energy and transportation sectors.

The Potential of Recycling

All vehicle types, including BEVs, hybrids, and ICE vehicles, can offset a portion of their life cycle emissions by recycling materials and components during their end-of-life stages. This suggests that a circular economy approach, focusing on reuse and recycling, can play a pivotal role in lowering the overall emissions of the transportation sector.

Enter HPQ Silicon

HPQ Silicon CEO Bernard Tourillon holding a container with the first samples of Silicon

HPQ Silicon CEO Bernard Tourillon holding a container with the first samples of Silicon produced by its proprietary technology. (HPQ Silicon Europe)

HPQ Silicon, an advanced materials engineering provider, offers sustainable silicon solutions that can transform the electric vehicle and battery manufacturing landscape. The company is developing a new manufacturing process for producing silicon, a semi-conductive material and a critical input in a wide range of modern technologies and industrial and consumer goods.

Silicon plays a pivotal role in battery technology. By enhancing the performance of lithium-ion batteries commonly used in electric vehicles, silicon anodes can significantly improve the energy density of these batteries. This leads to longer ranges and potentially reduces the need for frequent charging, reducing the emissions associated with electricity production—one of the most emission-intensive stages in a BEV’s life cycle.

The Potential of Silicon

Moreover, the company’s focus on developing new and sustainable silicon production processes can also contribute to lowering the production emissions for BEVs. By making the production process more efficient and less reliant on fossil fuels, companies like HPQ Silicon can help decarbonize the battery production process, significantly contributing to a BEV’s overall life cycle emissions.

The Path Forward!

As we transition towards a carbon-neutral economy, BEVs have a substantial role to play in reducing global CO₂ emissions.

However, it’s essential to recognize that their life cycle is still emission-intensive, particularly during manufacturing and electricity production. Companies like HPQ Silicon, with their innovative silicon solutions, hold the potential to significantly reduce these emissions, making the transition to electric vehicles not just a necessary step, but a more sustainable one.

The journey towards lower emissions is not a straight path, but a multifaceted process involving improvements in vehicle technology, electricity production changes, and material science innovations. As we continue to innovate and improve, we move closer to a truly sustainable future for the transportation sector.

HPQ Silicon is a Quebec-based TSX Venture Exchange Tier 1 Industrial Issuer. With the support of world-class technology partners PyroGenesis Canada and NOVACIUM SAS, the company is developing new green processes crucial to make the critical materials needed to reach net zero emissions.