Are Electric Vehicles Bad for the Environment?

| 1/6/2016 11:14:00 AM

Tags: Jennifer Tuohy, Home Depot, EV chargers,

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Over the last 18 months, several studies have begun a fresh debate about whether battery-powered electric vehicles are really better for the environment than gas-powered ones. The key point is asking how much the source of the electricity that powers an EV contributes to its green credentials. The answer: significantly.

Christopher Tessum, author of a November 2015 University of Minnesota study on how the various ways to power a car affect human health, told Popular Mechanics that many alternative fuel vehicles don’t end up leading to significant decreases in “air quality-related health impacts.”  

Tessum added, "The most important implication is that electric vehicles can cause large public health improvements, but only when paired with clean electricity. Adapting electric vehicles without taking steps to clean up electric generation would be worse for public health than continuing to use conventional gasoline vehicles."

A working study on the environmental benefits from driving EVs published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in June 2015 came to a similar conclusion, with more of a focus on geography. “What we find is that the benefits are substantially different depending on where you are in the country,” Stephen Holland of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who co-authored the study, told CityLab. “The real big take-home message is: location, location, location.”

Why Does It Matter Where I Live?

The key problem is that many parts of the United States still rely on electricity generated by fossil fuels. According to the EPA, the electrical power sector accounted for 32 percent of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, with fossil-fired power plants being the largest source of CO2 emissions. The worst offenders are coal- and gas-fired power plants. According to Tessum, without the continued development of cleaner electricity, EVs powered by fossil fuels would eventually be worse for public health than conventional gas-powered cars.

2/22/2016 4:19:12 AM

Thank you for your great job,this is really a good post. You give something to think about. Environmental issues are a big problem for this time. There are a lot of studies and a lot of theories about EVs and environment. We are always focused on EVs like city cars or urban transport network. But it's important to understand that the electric vehicles world is not just that. It's proved that, driving electric city cars, people can reduce the quantity of polluting emissions without changing their habits. On the other side, many factories are buying EVs to use during the operations. This happens because EVs are now so performing to be able to increase the productivity decreasing the emissions. In fact, industries and home heating alone genetate the most of CO2 emissions. Thanks!:)

1/15/2016 4:51:31 PM

One other factor to consider is the environmental impact of the production of these vehicles...the mining for raw materials (iron for steel, heavy metals for electronics and batteries, rubber for the tires, etc...). Then these materials must be transported to the production facilities...usually by rail, heavy truck, or ship. Then the factory needs to utilize energy to build the vehicle. After that, back to transportation to the dealership. These vehicles use up a massive amount of energy before they are ever driven. So a refer you take all this into account, you need to compare the production impacts of all vehicle type to truly decide which is the best option

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