Graeme Jagger | October 30th, 2020
Some argue that electric vehicles are worse for the environment than internal combustion engine vehicles. However, how true is this statement? To find out whether EVs are really better for the environment, we should compare the environmental impact of electric vehicles, versus gas powered vehicles, looking specifically at the environmental impact of three things: fuel source, manufacturing, and fuel consumption.
The first way that EVs could potentially be worse for the environment is that the battery production is much worse for the environment therefore the initial carbon footprint of an EV is higher than a gas powered vehicle. This is because the batteries of electric vehicles are made with lithium, which needs to be mined, and the process for mining lithium creates quite large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Another issue with lithium batteries is that recycling them is very difficult because of their volatility, making them quite dangerous to store.
One of the reasons that EVs can be worse for the environment is that the production of an EV uses anywhere from 8-10 metric tons of Co2 per vehicle up to 17 metric tons for larger EVS, whereas the average production of a gas vehicle only requires 7 metric tons of Co2. This difference may not be something set in stone, but until EV production becomes more efficient, this will stay the environmental cost of an EV.
Another issue with electric vehicles is their power source; many parts of the US still get their electricity from coal power plants, which makes driving an EV in these areas more detrimental to the environment than driving an EV in an area with clean energy, such as wind and solar power.
In a gas powered vehicle’s lifetime, it will use around 57 metric tons of Co2, compared to an EV, which will use 28 metric tons of Co2 in the same lifetime. Based on all this information, it is noticeably better to drive an EV to protect the environment. However, the production of EVs needs to become more efficient for them to truly become the absolute best for the environment, and seeing as EV production is still in its infancy, the industry will hopefully continue to become more efficient.