How “green” are electric vehicles really?

By: Alexandra Rimbu

Around the world, governments and automakers have pushed electric vehicles as a key solution to curbing oil use and fighting climate change, but are these vehicles really as “green” as advertised?

The answer is yes, but also no. While electric vehicles are, in fact, very “green”, they do still have environmental effects.

An argument that is often put forward when discussing how environmentally-friendly electric vehicles are is how polluting and damaging the process behind the manufacturing of their batteries can be to the Earth. The batteries behind electric vehicles are actually composed of a range of rare-earth metals, and the extraction of these metals contributes significantly to carbon emissions. In this sense, electric vehicles are not exactly “green”.

Additionally, the production of electric vehicles consumes a lot of energy. In fact, the emissions from the production of an electric vehicle is higher than those during the production of a conventional vehicle. This is due to the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries needed for electric vehicles. More than a third of the lifetime CO2 emissions from an electric vehicle come from the energy used to make the car itself. This is not very “green” either.

However, electric vehicles produce no tailpipe emissions, producing no carbon dioxide emissions when driving. When evaluated on that factor alone, electric vehicles are a lot more eco-friendly than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles on the market today. Over a year,  an average of 1.5 million grams of CO2 can be saved just by one electric vehicle on the roads.

Electric vehicles are also much more energy-efficient than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles. Approximately 17 to 21 percent of the energy is converted into power for the car when the gasoline in conventional vehicles combusts. 59 to 62 percent of the energy is converted into electric energy to power electric vehicles. 

So, the answer to our question is quite ambiguous, but perhaps, as technology advances and electric vehicles become even more environmentally friendly, we will have a definitive answer.

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