Pollution reduction is a major factor driving governments to adopt public policy that encourages the uptake of electric cars.

Just last week India’s transport minister cited pollution as the main reason for accelerating India’s adoption of electric vehicles (or “EVs”).

India now wants 15 per cent of all its vehicles to be electric in five years in an effort to combat pollution — an aggressive advance on an earlier target of 30 per cent by 2030.

“This is a time for the country to think seriously about pollution,” Bloomberg quoted India’s transport minister Nitin Gadkari as saying at a conference in New Delhi.

“If at least 15 per cent [EV penetration] comes in the next five years, it will be useful for the country.”

A year ago China — the world’s biggest market for EVs — set aggressive targets for battery-powered cars to combat air pollution.

But some doubts linger in the community about how environmentally friendly EVs really are — and that peception is a critical element in how aggressively governments push pro-EV public policy.

The green credentials of EVs are therefore also a key concern for investors in ASX stocks focused on “battery metals” such as lithium, cobalt and graphite that are needed by car-makers to power EVs.

That’s why the latest research on EV emissions from researchers Wood Mackenzie is important.

New research on EV emissions

The headine news is positive according to the latest work from energy and mining research house Wood Mackenzie.

A typical mid-size EV can generate up to two-thirds lower greenhouse gas emissions than a gasoline internal combustion engine (ICE) car, Wood Mackenzie reported on Monday.

However that came with a caveat — or in fact several caveats.

“Do we really know how to accurately compare the emissions of EVs versus ICE cars?” asked analyst Aman Verma.

“This involves a number of factors – how the fuel is produced in refineries, where the crude oil is sourced from, mileage of the car, how the electricity is produced and the energy use associated with vehicle and battery manufacturing and charging.

“These factors differ from country to country.

“When using our integrated model [taking into account all factors from “oil well to wheel”], based on the existing electricity generation mix in developing economies such as China and India, an EV can only displace up to half the greenhouse gas emissions of an ICE gasoline car.”

One solution for this would be for developing countries to focus public policy on fleet vehicles such as taxis.

“Governments in developing countries – such as China and India – could look at electrifying the current ICE car taxi fleet.

“In doing so, this would help achieve emissions abatement faster than incentivising and promoting the use of privately owned EVs because of their greater utilisation in terms of miles travelled.”