The Impact of Electric Vehicles on the Environment
EVs are often touted as a big part of the solution to the environmental ills currently afflicting our beloved planet Earth. However, as with the any big push for change, there has also been substantial pushback against electric vehicles and their adoption. One of the favorite claims of the anti-EV crowd is that electric cars aren’t actually better for the environment than traditional combustion engine gas- and diesel-powered cars. Such assertions often come in the form of unsubstantiated but widely shared memes on social media.
Is there truth to these anti-electric assertions? Are EVs actually better for the environment than vehicles powered by fossil fuels, or are they just part of a big green-marketing charade?
According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, EVs produce fewer direct emissions than internal combustion engine-powered vehicles. As a result, EVs contribute less to climate change and smog than traditional cars.
Did you know? Electric vehicles are fast too.
Does the manufacture of EV batteries harm the environment?
Critics of the EV movement sometimes assert that EVs cause more harm to the environment due to the harvesting of raw materials and the energy required to refine them. While it is true that making an EV requires moving a large number of raw materials, and this is a problem that is continually being worked on, researchers and advocates argue that the lower degree of direct emissions outweighs the impact of obtaining the raw materials.
In addition, gas-powered vehicles require the extraction of large amounts of petroleum from the earth, which then must be refined into gas and transported to gas stations. A 2016 National Renewable Energy Laboratory report found that, in 2014, the U.S. consumed more than 13 million barrels of petroleum a day in the transportation sector. The report concluded that, “Widespread use of alternative fuels and advanced vehicles, including plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), can reduce our national dependence on petroleum and decrease the emissions that impact our air quality and public health.”
Doesn’t the electricity that powers EVs come from powerplants that produce pollution?
While the electricity that is used to power electric vehicles does, in many locations, come from power plants that produce emissions, shifting the source of pollutants away from tailpipe emissions to a central location like a powerplant makes the pollution easier to manage. It’s preferable, of course, that the source of electricity for electric vehicles comes from renewable energy, and so it’s important that the world continue moving towards renewable energy in all sectors.