Electric Cars and the Environment: A Love/Hate Relationship
In the first installment of our series on the true costs of driving electric vehicles we looked at a comparison between driving electric powered versus gas powered automobiles. Although electricity was the cheaper option, it was not as cheap as some people might have imagined. It’s certainly not free, and your electricity rate can make a big difference in your true savings.
This week we are looking at the factors to consider when weighing the true environmental costs of driving electric powered versus gas powered. Here again the answer is not as simple as it may seem on the surface.
We’ve all heard the term “zero emissions” used when discussing electric vehicles. However, that term can be a bit misleading. It is true that some pure electric vehicles do not emit any pollutants from their onboard power sources during the course of driving. But, when you consider their whole life cycle electric cars are in fact responsible for producing pollutants.
Factors that must be considered include the manufacturing process that produces all of the metal, rubber, plastic, glass, fabric and other components of the car including the batteries that provide the electricity during use of the car. Aside from the batteries most of these components are common to both gas and electric vehicles. But when you consider replacing and existing gas vehicle with new electric vehicles the gas vehicle has the advantage of having already been manufactured.
Critics of the recent popular “Cash for Clunkers” program played on just such a point to illustrate that the cost to the US tax payer was in fact very high for every ton of carbon emissions actually eliminated by the program. This is because the program called for cars that were already manufactured and still functional to be pulled off the road in favor of newly manufactured vehicles that had greater fuel efficiency and therefore lower carbon emissions mile for mile. Had the choice been between replacing a vehicle that was going to be retired anyway with more fuel efficient vehicle it would have been an obvious win. But scrapping an otherwise working higher emissions vehicle to be replaced by a lower emissions vehicle that might not have otherwise been manufactured complicates the equation.Continued on the next page