Are Electric Cars Better For The Environment?

By

Automotive Contributor

Sean is an automotive enthusiast with a background in sports journalism. He is a graduate of California Lutheran University with a Bachelor of Science in Business.

, Automotive Contributor - December 19, 2023
2024 Hyundai Kona Electric front three-quarter view

Environmental consciousness is up there with fuel savings among the reasons for people to consider EVs. EVs don't release tailpipe emissions, but that doesn't mean that they aren't responsible for any greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Generating power and manufacturing batteries are both relatively carbon-intensive processes, which makes some potential buyers skeptical of the positive environmental impact of EVs. Here's what you need to know regarding EVs and how good they are for the environment.

It's not a secret that EVs don't release tailpipe emissions. However, calling them "zero emissions vehicles" is a bit of a misnomer. Charging, manufacturing, recycling the batteries, and building and salvaging the vehicle itself all emit greenhouse gasses. Gasoline cars of course need to be built and then recycled as well, but are the added greenhouse gas costs of manufacturing, charging, and recycling an EV battery negated by tailpipe emission-free driving?

The short answer is yes. According to the EPA, a study from the Argonne National Laboratory showed that EVs emit about half as much greenhouse gas as ICE-powered cars in terms of grams per mile throughout their lifetimes. It's worth noting that these estimates are based on an EV with a 300-mile driving range and will vary depending on other factors such as MPGe, vehicle lifespan, and method of generating power, but the difference in GHG emissions in this model is quite significant.

Mercedes EQ models charging

Manufacturing and end-of-life GHG expenditures make up a larger percentage of EV total emissions than those of ICE vehicles, which is likely due to the recycling of the batteries. Large batteries made from lithium and other rare-earth metals can be very energy-intensive to recycle. However, the increased cost of energy disposal for EV batteries is more than made up for by the lack of tailpipe emissions from EVs.

The largest contributor to EV GHG emissions isn't recycling the battery, but charging it. On average, more GHGs will be released generating the electricity for an EV than in refining the gasoline for an ICE car. This metric varies depending on how electricity is generated in your location. The EPA website has a feature that shows how electricity is generated on a regional basis.

Source: EPA

Pictured: 2024 Hyundai Kona Electric (top), Mercedes-Benz EQ models charging (middle)

Explore This Month's Top EV Deals

, Automotive Contributor

Sean is an automotive enthusiast with a background in sports journalism. He is a graduate of California Lutheran University with a Bachelor of Science in Business.


Privacy Terms of Use Your Privacy Choices Disclaimer Cookie Policy Manage Preferences
COPYRIGHT 1999-2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba CarsDirect.com