Since electric vehicles hit the mainstream in the early 2000s, some have questioned the environmentally friendly label EV manufacturers claim. Opponents point out that some pollution still comes from the process of their manufacture, and that no vehicle is perfect. EVs, however, are better for the environment than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles because fully electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions. Though this seems like a simple statement, there’s a lot going on behind it. We have to examine all the benefits, both short and long term, to really appreciate how much better for the world electric vehicles are.
Fewer Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere
There are two major categories of vehicle emissions: direct and life cycle. According to Energy.gov, direct emissions are emitted through the tailpipe, through evaporation from the fuel system, and during the fueling process. “Direct emissions include smog-forming pollutants (such as nitrogen oxides), other pollutants harmful to human health, and greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide. All-electric vehicles produce zero direct emissions, which specifically helps improve air quality in urban areas.”
These are the emissions that make us ill, cost the healthcare industry billions, and cause climate change.
Life cycle emissions, however, include ALL emissions, not only from the use of the vehicle, but also from its creation, such as the drilling, processing, distribution, and use of petroleum, and waste products created from batteries.
The amount of life cycle emissions produced by an EV is also dependent on the source of the electricity used to fuel it. Quite a bit of the world’s electricity comes from coal, especially in China. China manufactures a large number of EV batteries, and Forbes points out that Chinese battery manufacturers could cut their emissions by 66% if they adopted American and European manufacturing techniques. Wherever they are manufactured, however, EVs cannot be considered 100% pollution-free.
Does that mean EVs powered by electricity from fossil fuels aren’t better for the environment than ICE vehicles? Not so fast. According to accessscience.com, studies have shown that EVs not only reduce air pollution when the electricity comes from renewable resources, such as wind energy but also reduce air pollution even if the electricity comes from fossil fuels.
According to phys.org, a study conducted on the effect of electric cars on air pollution found that “Across scenarios, we found the more cars that transitioned to electric power, the better for summertime ozone levels,” Schnell said. “No matter how the power is generated, the more combustion cars you take off the road, the better the ozone quality.”
However, using renewable resources can reduce particulate matter in the air caused by EVs to nearly zero, reducing pollutants destroying the ozone layer, as well as other pollutants. Using wind, solar, or hydro energy can remove an EV’s carbon footprint almost entirely.
Less Dependence on Foreign Oil
The U.S. used nearly nine billion barrels of petroleum last year, two-thirds of which went towards transportation. Our reliance on petroleum makes us vulnerable to price spikes, supply disruptions, and a string of wars in oil-producing nations that cost American lives. EVs help reduces this threat because, unlike oil, almost all U.S. electricity is produced from domestic sources, including coal, nuclear, natural gas, and renewable sources.
Better Public Health
Nine out of ten people worldwide breathe air that is above the maximum limits of pollutants. Some of the damage is to structures, like buildings and bridges, but much of that damage is to us humans in the form of allergies, infections, asthma, COPD, and lung cancer. Air pollution costs the medical industry billions every year.
When you choose to buy an EV or your business invents in EVSE, the improvement in respiratory health in your community is real. The lives of those in your community who suffer from respiratory diseases are improved. Particularly right now, businesses that install EVSE are improving health in their communities.
EVs are better than ICEV for the environment because they do not produce as many green gases, but EVs are better than ICEV for people too, due to long term and short term benefits that may be a bit less obvious.