The major benefit of electric cars is the contribution that they can make toward improving air quality in towns and cities. With no tailpipe, pure electric cars produce no carbon dioxide emissions when driving. This reduces air pollution considerably.
Electric vehicles require a lot of energy to manufacture. However, you should still choose electric vehicles because EVs offer greener options compared to those of combustion engines. This is because of the reduction in emissions created over the car’s lifetime
The emissions created during the production of an electric car tend to be higher than a conventional car. This is due to the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries which are an essential part of an electric car. More than a third of the lifetime CO2 emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to make the car itself. As technology advances, this is changing for the better.
Reusing and recycling batteries is also a growing market. Research into the use of second-hand batteries is looking at ways to reuse batteries in new technologies such as electricity storage. One day we could all have batteries in our homes being used to store our own energy. Opportunities like this will reduce the lifetime environmental impact of battery manufacture.
Below are five major ways that EVs can benefit the environment.
1. EVs can produce zero tailpipe emissions.
Full electric vehicles do not need a tailpipe, as they don’t produce exhaust. Traditional engines combust gasoline or diesel, creating energy at the cost of producing harmful carbon emissions. By contrast, the batteries found in EVs are completely emission-free. The most common type of battery employed in EVs is the lithium-ion battery. These batteries can be depleted and charged repeatedly without contributing to air pollution.
2. Even when using fossil fuels, EVs contribute fewer emissions than ICE vehicles. Many electric charging stations use renewable energy to charge EVs. However, some are still powered by coal-burning power plants and similar energy sources considered harmful to the environment. In countries that primarily use coal, oil, or natural gas for power, charging EVs can leave a more significant carbon footprint.
Yet, even when EVs are coal-powered, they still lead to lower emissions overall. Coal-reliant countries like China have seen a 20% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from using electric cars. For countries that rely even less on fossil fuels, clean energy sources allow EVs to be even greener.
3. EV battery production can be clean.
Electric vehicles don't contribute much air pollution on the road because manufacturing EV batteries can be harmful if done irresponsibly. All EV emissions are well-to-wheel emissions created during the battery production process. Electric vehicles are still a newer technology and inconsistent with energy sources used to make batteries resulting in larger carbon footprints.
4. ICE vehicles pollute continuously.
Apart from the limited use of coal-fueled charging stations, EVs do not contribute to air pollution after they are manufactured. Most emissions are produced during the battery manufacturing process. That means the total emissions of an EV can be measured before it even starts up for the first time.
ICE vehicles, on the other hand, produce CO2 emissions whenever their engines are on. On average, a gasoline-powered passenger vehicle produces between 5 to 6 metric tons of CO2 per year. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the ICE emissions surpass the EVs’ well-to-wheel emissions in just 6-18 months of operation. With millions of ICE vehicles being driven worldwide, emissions continue to be produced in great volumes. Alternatively, an electric vehicle powered by renewable energy will maintain a neutral carbon footprint, indefinitely.
5. EV manufacturers use eco-friendly materials.
One of the major obstacles facing EV manufacturers is producing a functional, lightweight vehicle. Lighter EVs have a greater range and smaller carbon footprint, but traditional materials make it difficult to achieve this. However, recycled and organic materials are now comparable to traditional materials. They’re lightweight, eco-friendly, strong, and durable.
Many conventional manufacturers use recycled materials for small components, but currently don’t use them for a vehicle’s structure. EV manufacturers are using and improving eco-friendly materials to build lighter, more efficient vehicles.
Weight reduction is not the only benefit of using recycled and organic materials—they are also better for the environment. Using new materials like metals and plastics is unsustainable and creates pollution. All-natural or recycled materials minimize the environmental impact both during and after the EV production process.
i) Samsara (2023) How Are Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment?