People often ask about the environmental impact of building and driving electric vehicles. Let’s be abundantly clear: manufacturing anything requires physical resources and energy. A sure way to reduce environmental impacts is to reduce consumption. In transportation, that can be achieved using public transit or micro-mobility where possible. When vehicles are necessary, electric is the way to go. Electric vehicles produce fewer emissions than gas, regardless of how power is generated.
It’s no revelation that battery packs require energy and materials to build, and therefore electric vehicles have associated emissions from manufacturing. But let’s make a few other things clear:
- The emissions from manufacturing are largely dependent on the cleanliness of the power grid where batteries are made. Those grids are becoming cleaner, so the upfront emissions are decreasing. In fact, Volkswagen’s new ID.3 and ID.4 electric vehicles are carbon-neutral (from manufacturing) when delivered to customers since their factory uses 100% green energy. As would be the case with any vehicle, shipping introduces extra emissions.
- Polestar is setting an ambitious goal of making “climate-neutral” vehicles, which further eliminate emissions from the supply chain and manufacturing.
- Electric motors are very efficient at moving vehicles around. Electric cars will produce fewer emissions than gas cars over their lifetimes regardless of how the electricity is made. Yes, studies have measured the emissions: even in a coal-powered grid, it’s better to drive an electric vehicle than a gas vehicle. For example, as of 2018, 75% of drivers in the USA lived in a state where driving electric was better than a 50 mpg gas car.
- As electric grids become cleaner, so do the electric vehicles in those grids. An improvement in power production instantly becomes a benefit to all the vehicles using that power.
In B.C., we have a very clean grid powered by hydro electricity. Operating an electric car produces zero emissions from the vehicle itself and almost nothing from power production. A 2018 study finds that, in terms of emissions, an average fully electric car in B.C. would exceed an equivalent of 450 mpg. Imagine getting 0.5 L/100km in a gas car! This makes B.C. an ideal place to reduce transportation emissions with electric vehicles.
If you want to look into the topic further, get started with the articles linked below. Should you have any questions about owning an EV or living the electric life, send them our way at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Interactive tool shows electric vehicle emissions and costs by model compared to gas vehicles.
- Electric vehicles as part of Canada’s climate change solution
- Emissions from lithium ion battery production much lower than two years ago
- Comparing Global Warming Impacts of Electric and Gas Powered Vehicles by Electrical Region (Canada)
- UBC Lifecycle Analysis of Electric Vehicles
- Electric cars produce less CO2 than petrol vehicles, study confirms
- Are electric vehicles cleaner than petrol, diesel when run from coal grid?
What about Cobalt?
You may have heard about ethical issues surrounding cobalt mining. Cobalt is used to manufacture a myriad of products, from gasoline to batteries in consumer electronics and electric cars. You can find a summary of research and news about cobalt here.