Are Electric Vehicles Actually Better for the Environment?

Are Electric Vehicles Actually Better for the Environment?

As we all know, electric vehicles are powered by electricity instead of gas, making them (seemingly) more environmentally friendly than gasoline-powered cars. They use no fuel and thus produce no emissions (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, and hydrocarbons). On the surface, these types of cars appear to be better for the planet and pollution, but taking a deeper dive may tell a different story.

Lower Emissions

As expected, electric cars have an electric motor instead of a traditional internal combustion engine. This type of engine doesn't burn fuels like gasoline but instead converts electrical energy into mechanical energy used to power the car. Because there are no fuels being burned, electric vehicles produce no harmful emissions from exhaust. This is especially helpful for major cities with high populations. More electric vehicles mean better air quality for residents.

EVs Are Fuel Efficient

Electric vehicles are also better for the environment than gas-powered cars because they're more efficient. For those without physics degrees, efficiency is the measure for the amount of energy that is converted into actual power for propulsion.

Electric vehicles convert over 77 percent of electrical energy into car movement, while traditional vehicles only convert about 12%–30% of the energy stored in gasoline. This means that it takes less energy to move the electric vehicle than it does to move a gas car. By reducing up to 88% of carbon waste from the atmosphere, electric vehicles have the edge here.

Modern Features

When it comes to performance, electric vehicles are more advanced than their gas counterparts. For example, the average electric vehicle has a much higher top speed of about 115 mph and can travel about 250 miles on a single charge. Additionally, these motors often have near-instant torque production and accelerate faster and more efficiently. These cars often have many new features that make driving safer, more enjoyable, and convenient. They include:

  • Power steering

  • Electric windows

  • Cruise control

  • Rapid charging capability

  • Auto-leveling headlights

  • Power assist cameras

  • Automatic wipers

  • Self-parking sensors

  • Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling and music streaming

  • Many models also include self-driving capabilities

Higher Mileage Range

The higher mileage range of electric vehicles is another plus that makes them better for the environment than traditional cars. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, gas-powered cars on average get about 24 miles of travel per gallon. Compare this with a standard electric vehicle which comes in at over 100 miles per electrical equivalent. Higher efficiency means less refueling, which we can all agree is a good thing.

Disadvantages of Electric Vehicles

Now for the bad news. Not all aspects of electric vehicles are planet friendly. While phasing out gas-powered vehicles is absolutely a must, here are some of the main environmental issues that come with electric vehicles are:

  • Increased Air pollution (from battery manufacturing)

  • Production of electric cars emits a higher amount of greenhouse gases than that of gasoline vehicles

  • Production of electricity used to charge EVs may create carbon pollution

  • Batteries used in electric vehicles contain lead, a hazardous chemical that can damage the environment if it leaks into the soil

  • Mining for critical battery components like lithium and cobalt require huge amounts of energy

The Bottom Line

In nearly every aspect examined, electric vehicles are better for the environment than traditional cars. From efficiency, to operating byproducts, driving an electric vehicle is seemingly better for the planet. However, a quick look under the surface and it’s easy to see why some experts have concerns over their apparent values. Until battery units can be manufactured more cleanly, and precious resources for battery components can be mined ethically and sustainably, it seems there are certain tradeoffs for the environmentally conscious.

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