Are Electric Cars Really Greener?

Electric cars are kind of a divisive issue. Those who drive electric vehicles often wax poetic about how much better they are for the environment while others, like the author of this Politico piece, like to point out all the ways that electric cars aren’t as green as they are made out to be.

What’s the truth about electric cars? It’s complicated.

Let’s talk about batteries.

On the one hand, the battery for electric cars is an environmental issue in its own right.

The rare, lightweight metals used in the batteries and throughout the cars often come from not so eco mines that are hugely environmentally polluting. Plus, as few as 5 percent of the lithium batteries used in electric vehicles actually get recycled (in the EU), which means they just sit in landfills and leach toxins into the environment. However, Tesla claims to have a battery recycling plan that is actually cost-effective for both manufacturers and recycling plants, which could improve the battery issue.

And while the manufacturing of electric cars produces more carbon emissions than manufacturing a gas-powered car, one look at Musk’s solar-powered Gigafactory puts that argument to rest.

Electric vehicle production may be secretly more dirty than you’d expect, it’s something that innovative companies like Tesla are working to tackle. When it comes to of fueling electric vehicles, though, they’re as green as you make them.

The way you charge your electric car matters.

According to the author of Politico’s recent piece, increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road will actually increase pollution. The idea is that new models of internal combustion vehicles are actually extraordinarily efficient, which is true.

“Today’s vehicles emit only about 1% of the pollution than they did in the 1960s, and new innovations continue to improve those engines’ efficiency and cleanliness,” according to author Jonathan Lesser.

When comparing that sort of low emissions pollution with the pollution caused by traditionally-powered electric vehicles, yes. A new gas-powered car is probably greener than a new, grid-powered electric car right now. But that only factors in electric vehicles charged through the grid.

Solar power, one of the cleanest and most independent forms of renewable electricity, needs to be taken into serious consideration. The author relies on a projection regarding the increase of renewables pumped into the grid, which may hit 30 percent by 2030–not enough to keep things clean for electric cars. But that bleak outlook only takes into account our existing infrastructure.

We need to ditch fossil fuels.

When considering the environmental cleanliness of new gas cars versus electric cars, one big factor that needs to be taken into consideration is the importance of getting our planet off of a dependence on fossil fuels.

While less-polluting gas cars are wonderful, they are still gas cars. They will always only be powered by oil and gas. An electric car, on the other hand, can be powered just as easily by wind or solar as by fossil fuels, if the infrastructure were there to support it.

And that’s why we need more electric cars. Sure, as they currently exist they may not be as pristine and clean as we like to believe, depending on how you fuel them. But the renewable energy infrastructure will not grow around them unless there is a demand.

We need people driving clean electric cars to push towns, cities, and states to enact widespread projects to provide clean sustainable energy for the surge in electrically powered vehicles. That’s how we will begin to cut off our dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

Automobile elettrica con casa ecologica

Solar is the future (and the present) for electric charging.

I have always associated electric cars with solar charging. The vast majority of electric car charging stations I see are solar powered. Even certain grocery stores have implemented free solar charging stations to reward environmentally-conscious customers while they shop.

While I can’t speak for the whole country, buying an expensive electric vehicle like a Tesla only makes financial sense if the electricity is very affordable–as it is at many solar charging stations, including long term use of a personal solar station at home.

Granted, not everyone will exclusively use solar to power their cars. With the rise in popularity of luxury electric vehicles, it is natural that those who are less eco-minded but desire to indulge their wealth will buy a fancy electric car and not discriminate between renewable charging stations and fossil fuels. But that doesn’t mean electric cars are actually worse for the environment. It means we need to make it easier for the indiscriminate to cleanly charge them.

Our infrastructure needs to grow and evolve in tandem with our vehicles. An electric car is a move towards cleaner energy. It should be charged that way, too.

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40 comments

Ann B
Ann B1 months ago

ok

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Cindy Smith
Cindy Smith2 months ago

thanks

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Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer2 months ago

Hmmmm.

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Barbara M
Barbara M2 months ago

thanks for this

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Angela AWAY K
Angela K2 months ago

noted

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R2 months ago

Fewer people...better public transit...fewer cars period.

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Winn A
Winn Adams2 months ago

Thanks

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Winn A
Winn Adams2 months ago

noted

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Debra G
Debra G2 months ago

More charging stations are needed. While Tesla is investing in this infrastructure, their station plugs are incompatible with other electric vehicles. Still, this is the future of transportation and we can’t slide back.

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Cathy B
Cathy B2 months ago

Thank you.

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