The majority of people assume that electric cars provide an obvious benefit to the environment and are thus the future of the auto industry. However, upon a deep dive into the statistics many people might start wondering: Will purchasing an electric car reduce my carbon footprint?
Are you wondering whether investing in an electric car will really reduce your carbon footprint? Let’s delve into the potential negative impacts of electric vehicles to give you a big-picture view of how they affect the environment.
Production of the vehicle
Manufacturing an electric vehicle actually generates more CO2 than producing a standard vehicle – particularly because of its battery.
“Production of an average petrol car will involve emissions amounting to the equivalent of 5.6 tonnes of CO2, while for an average electric car, the figure is 8.8 tonnes,” The Guardian states, citing a recent study. “Of that, nearly half is incurred in producing the battery.”
Over the car’s entire life cycle, it would produce 80% of the emissions of a gas-consuming vehicle, the same study found.
Furthermore, the production of electric cars uses rare earth metals such as neodymium, dysprosium, and terbium, not to mention lithium, which all have environmental consequences. Mining rare earth metals typically has harmful byproducts, leaving behind toxic tailings that could contaminate the environment, MIT explains.
Due to concerns about the availability of these rare earth metals, some automakers are working to develop alternatives. Toyota recently developed a magnet that can reduce the amount of neodymium used in its battery, for instance. However, serious concerns about the materials used in electric car batteries persist.
How is car’s electricity is produced
The sustainability of an electric car also depends largely on the type of fuel used to produce the electricity it runs on. If you’re powering your car with a solar array at your home, your car will have a much lower impact on the environment than if you’re powering it with electricity produced from coal. The one that relies on electricity from coal would indirectly create far more emissions.
No technology is 100% emission-free – even the creation of solar panels produces emissions. It’s just a matter of scale – and in terms of fuel consumption, electric cars are far more sustainable than those that rely on petrol.
EnergySage recommends investing in a solar panel system at your home at the same time as purchasing an electric vehicle. This will maximize your savings while minimizing your carbon footprint.
In China, researchers found that when cars can be charged in a slow rather than fast charging mode, they can use wind energy more effectively. Charging slowly during off-peak times lends the most efficient use of sustainable energy.
The car’s energy efficiency
Energy efficiency is another component of a car’s carbon footprint. A less energy efficient electric vehicle will waste more of the electricity delivered to it, which especially poses a concern if you’re not using sustainably produced power.
However, new electric car models are becoming increasingly more efficient. Their miles-per-gallon equivalent can be as high as 100, and they can typically use 59 to 62% of the electricity delivered to them to power the car. In contrast, gas-powered vehicles use just 17 to 21% of the fuel they burn.
As these key considerations demonstrate, minimizing driving remains important if you’re working to live a greener lifestyle and reduce your carbon footprint. Driving still produces emissions, even if indirectly. Tried-and-true alternatives like walking, biking, and carpooling remain just as crucial.