Are Electric Cars Actually Better For The Environment?

We’ve gotta get rid of these gas guzzlers and switch to electric cars that plug into the land of rainbows and unicorns. Hi guys, Lissette here for DNews. Often called “zero emissions” vehicles, electric cars are surely better for the environment, right? Ehhh not so fast…Their entire life-cycle, from manufacture to use to disposal, needs to be considered when determining their environmental impact. We can’t just look at their tailpipes. So, taking everything into consideration, are electric vehicles actually better for the environment than our old timey cars? The Union of Concerned Scientists, or UCS, recently conducted a cradle to grave study to dig into this question, starting by comparing the manufacturing of battery electric and petrol cars and materials and resources used. They used a Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf to represent battery-electric vehicles, also known as BEVS, and comparable midsize and fullsize gasoline cars. They found that before they even hit the road – electric vehicles actually are responsible for about 1 ton more emissions than their traditional counterparts. Yes, that’s a winning point for your gasoline powered car. This is largely because of the BEVs lithium-ion batteries, which require the extraction of rare earth metals.

.. often through drilling… just like with oil. Not a very eco-friendly activity. When it comes to disposing of BEVs, they don’t seem to be any better than regular cars either. In fact, they may have a greater environmental footprint because it’s tricky to dispose of their lithium ion batteries. But data here is lacking. Now when on the road, BEVs don’t emit CO2, but their batteries need to be charged from electricity that has to come from somewhere – and this somewhere might have a CO2 output of its own. A report based on 2009 national averages found that If the electricity is coming primarily from a country like India where coal accounts for about 60% of electricity generated, your BEV ends up emitting C02 at about the same levels as a 20 mpg car. In the US, where the fuel sources are cleaner, this figure only rose to 40mpg – which is basically the average for a really efficient petrol car. So, at this point you may be thinking, if electric cars pollute more when they’re built, just about the same when they’re junked, and their battery charges can pollute even more than an efficient gas car… then, of course electric vehicles aren’t greener.

Figures from studies like this one are often cited to make the case against electric vehicles. But, here’s the thing, since 2009 BEVs have become more efficient and while India has added more coal powered plants, the US has not, opting instead for renewable sources. Looking at 2015 data, the UCS determined that BEVs in the US are now the equivalent of cars that go 68mpg. And in countries like Paraguay and Iceland, the electricity is so clean that a BEV there would be like having a car that goes more than 200 miles per gallon Their electricity grids are powered by more water, wind, and solar energy, than other countries. When it comes to emissions, BEVs here are many times better for the environment than petrol cars. What’s more, the longer you drive an electric car, the better it stacks up against gas vehicles. The UCS found that basically, it you drive an EV for a month, you might as well buy a car. But drive that puppy for 2 years and you’re helping the environment.

All said and done, the UCS found that electric vehicles produce about 50 percent fewer emissions than a regular car in the US. Basically, the comparative environmental benefits increase the more you drive and the cleaner the electricity source. CTA video Now, we are of course, only talking about global warming emissions, we’re not saying that one type of car is better than another. You might have personal preference for other reasons. Maybe you’re into salt powered cars. To learn more about those guys, check out this episode here. River Monsters push Now, if you’re a fan of the biggest and baddest water creatures, you can watch the full, season premier of River Monsters online now. Just click the link in the video description below and catch new episodes of Season 8 every Thursday on Animal Planet. What’s your favorite car? Do you prefer petrol, electric, hybrid, diesel, something else? Share your thoughts in the comments and remember to subscribe so you never miss an episode of DNews.

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