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Are Electric Cars Really Better For The Environment?

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Electric cars have been hailed as the clean transportation solution of the future. People are slowly realizing that gas-guzzling cars and trucks need to be removed from the road, and governments have set up attractive incentive structures to entice people to buy electric cars instead.

There’s something very futuristic and clean about plugging your car into a tidy electrical outlet at the end of the day, instead of filling it up with expensive gasoline. But unless 100% of that electric power comes from wind, solar, or other renewable energy, an electric car isn’t a zero-emissions vehicle.

“Many states still rely on coal power to meet a large portion of their electric needs,” writes Rachel Krech of Yahoo News. “If more electric cars hit the roads, then they will require an increase in electricity production to charge the batteries. In many cases, states may resort to increased coal production since they already utilize their coal-powered plants to begin with. Coal plants alone are a major contributor to widespread pollution problems.”

You probably wouldn’t brag about having a coal-powered vehicle in the garage, but for many electric car owners, this is exactly what’s happening.

>>Up Next: So Are Super-Efficient Gas-Powered Cars Better Than Electric Cars?

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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.

106 comments

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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

thanks

3:14AM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

thanks

6:43PM PDT on Apr 20, 2011

Merci pour l'info.

12:56PM PDT on Apr 20, 2011

Wind power is NOT an answer! Changing a stright wind in to a circuler wind? BAD idea! Use the wind DON'T CUT IT!

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people are talking

Well okay. I guess to each her own. Thanks.

No. 2 and 13 - Really ?? Then your house smells like liquor, and so do you... Think I'll pass …

Thanks for info..

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