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Are Electric Cars Really Better For The Environment?

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Are Electric Cars Really Better For The Environment?

Note: This is the second in a weekly series of Care2 posts about alternative fuels and vehicles in honor of Earth Day. Be sure to check out first post, Top 5 All-Electric Vehicles of 2011.

Last week, I posted an article about the differences between gas-powered, hybrid, and electric cars, and the top up and coming all-electric vehicle models you should keep an eye on this year.

There were lots of great comments on the article, but a few readers posed an important question: If they’re powered by electricity produced by coal-fired or nuclear power plants, are electric cars really better for the environment?

On the following pages, I try to answer this complex question by comparing the energy demands and carbon footprints of both electric and gas-powered cars, and clarify the zero-emissions claims of many electric car makers.

Enjoy…and keep the great questions coming!

>>Up Next: What’s Really Powering That Electric Car?

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Beth Buczynski

Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog or check out her blog.


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5:38AM PDT on Jul 31, 2015

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12:33AM PDT on Jun 24, 2015

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2:29AM PST on Jan 21, 2015

Live long and prosper!

2:08AM PDT on Jul 9, 2013

TY! I agreed I think the same!

9:09PM PST on Jan 22, 2013

Truncated! . . .
Finally, I am betting that Faye S. has never driven an EV. It was 3F this morning and my EV ran perfectly. My friends with gas engines could not start their cars . . .

9:08PM PST on Jan 22, 2013

There are a lot of missed points and misleading info in this article. For example:
1) comparing a gas-miserly Corolla to a Tesla Roadster EV (a $100,000+ high performance sports car) is idiotic. Similarly, you would not compare a Porsche to a Leaf. If you compare a Corolla to a Leaf, you would find that - even with coal-produced electricity - the efficiency of an EV (mine gets 119 MPGe) and the fact that central production of power is more efficient than millions of small gas engines makes the EV comparable to a gas engine at worst, and potentially far better.
3) Any electric item, be it a home, car, or lawnmower, offers the FLEXIBILITY to clean up the energy source in the future. A gas-powered engine allows NO flexibility. For example, if your local coal plants are phased out for natural gas (which is occurring across the country), if you install solar panels, or if you decide to purchase power from a supplier that provides electricity from wind/solar/hydro sources, your EV becomes MUCH cleaner. Your gas guzzler does not.
3) Environmental considerations aside, EVs are awesome machines that accelerate and handle beautifully, are quiet, and are simply fun to drive! They also require almost no maintenance (brake pads and rotating tires). They are worth getting for these aspects, alone. Its also fun to thumb your nose at the gas stations as you drive by.
Finally, I am betting that Faye S. has never driven an EV. It was 3F this morning and my EV ran perfectly. My friends w

3:08PM PST on Dec 24, 2012

Thanks Beth!

6:45PM PST on Dec 4, 2012

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7:10AM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

I like to think that I research issues thoroughly so I am embarassed to admit I never thought to consider the connection of increased electric car use to an increase in coal use! We just can't let go of our beloved fossil fuels, can we?!

5:56PM PDT on Jun 22, 2011


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