There has been a lot of debate recently in determining if electric vehicles (EVs) are really eco cars when compared to their petroleum-powered brethren. Opponents of electric cars have sited the environmental impacts of lithium mining (a metal essential to EV battery production) and the fact that most of our energy grid is made up of fossil fuel energy as the two main factors greatly lessening the eco-friendliness of EVs.
Yes, lithium mining is an environmental tragedy. But lithium mining is no less environmentally degrading than the current refining, extraction, and transportation of petroleum and petroleum products, which releases millions of tons of carbon emissions, destroys pristine habitat, and tarnishes water supplies each year. In addition, the environmental consequences from burning gasoline and diesel, which directly contribute not only to deadly ozone, volatile organic compound and particulate emissions but also to carbon dioxide and the greater danger posed by climate change, have far more potential for global environmental harm.
Debate over the burning of fossil fuels brings us to the second issue plaguing the environmental image of electric vehicles. Critics argue that because the majority of our electrical power is generated from carbon-rich sources, that there is negligible benefit to driving EVs instead of gas or diesel powered cars. This may be true in countries such as China, where 80 percent of electricity is generated from coal. However, over 50 percent of electricity in the U.S. comes from sources with greatly reduced emissions compared with coal: Hydro, nuclear, natural gas, and some renewables. In fact, innovations in software are paving the way for EV drivers to possess the ability to charge their cars when the largest amount of renewable electricity is being generated for the grid.
EVs obviously save money on gas, but are they really greener cars? Because they provide an alternative from climate change inducing, higher carbon emitting sources of energy such as petroleum, electric vehicles are truly a more eco friendly option.
You can read more about the C02 benefits of EVs in China vs. the U.S. at the New York Times.
Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.