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Electric Vehicles & the Impact on Climate Change

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been a hot topic in the climate change discussion for years now. It’s touted as one of the best solutions to lower carbon emissions. The history of electric vehicles goes as far back as the 1830s but due to its high cost and the introduction of the more affordable and accessible Ford Model T in 1908, EVs did not gain much traction in the automotive world for a long time. Internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, on the other hand, dominated the market and became more advanced and reliable as time went on. The car company Tesla brought EVs more into the public eye with the release of the Roadster in 2008. Several other companies tried to introduce their EVs such as Daimler AG (Smart Fortwo Electric Drive), Nissan (Leaf), and multiple startup companies. But it wasn’t until Tesla released the Model S in 2012 that EVs became mainstream. And now with EVs becoming more popular (examples being the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach E) and accessible, there is one question: Is it living up to the hype?

One of the biggest points for EVs is that they emit less carbon into the atmosphere in their lifetime compared to an ICE vehicle. A common misconception about EVs is that even though the car itself emits zero emissions, its carbon footprint comes from manufacturing and power plant power for charging and in the end causes the same amount of emissions as an ICE vehicle. This is not entirely true. While it is true that manufacturing and charging an EV creates its carbon footprint (and manufacturing creates a bigger one compared to ICEs), that is the only footprint it will ever have and will be far smaller than its combustion engine counterparts in the long run. For an ICE vehicle, its footprint doesn’t stop at its manufacturing but is just the beginning. In fact, the majority of emissions caused by ICE vehicles are actually from their exhaust over the course of their lifetime. A study done by the DOE’s Argonne National Library found that EVs essentially “paid back” their own emissions from manufacturing by 19,000 miles of usage under normal conditions. After this, it helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

So, an EV produces less emissions than a combustion engine vehicle. But how much lower is it? Before we answer this question, there is something that should be understood. This answer can vary because of multiple factors such as daily distance traveled and the topography of the region. But, if one study from The Union of Concerned Scientists is to be believed, it’s that the average EV creates the same number of emissions as an 88 mpg engine. For comparison a 2023 Toyota Prius, one of the most efficient combustion cars available, has about 52 mpg with combined city and highway driving. More aerodynamic EVs such as the Lucid Air and Tesla Model 3 are even more efficient due to their design.

Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly efficient and accessible for more people by the day. They could solve one of the biggest issues we have when it comes to climate change. And they are quite nice too, so they may be worth considering if oil changes are annoying.

Image: https://www.rimac-automobili.com/nevera/

 

Sources

Jaramillo, Catalina. “Electric Vehicles Contribute Fewer Emissions than Gasoline-Powered Cars over Their Lifetimes.” FactCheck.Org, The Annenberg Public Policy Center, 7 Feb. 2024, www.factcheck.org/2024/02/electric-vehicles-contribute-fewer-emissions-than-gasoline-powered-cars-over-their-lifetimes/.

Kelly, Jarod C., Elgowainy, Amgad, Isaac, Raphael, Ward, Jacob, Islam, Ehsan, Rousseau, Aymeric, Sutherland, Ian, Wallington, Timothy J., Alexander, Marcus, Muratori, Matteo, Franklin, Matthew, Adams, Jesse, and Rustagi, Neha. Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Analysis of U.S. Light-Duty Vehicle-Fuel Pathways: A Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment of Current (2020) and Future (2030-2035) Technologies. United States: N. p., 2023. Web. doi:10.2172/2228291.

Scott, Victoria. “Cars with the Best Gas Mileage in 2024 | U.S. News.” Edited by Cody Trotter, U.S. News and World Report, U.S. News and World Report, 1 Dec. 2023, cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/advice/cars-with-the-best-gas-mileage

Baldwin, Roberto, et al. “EV vs. Gas: Which Cars Are Cheaper to Own?” Car and Driver, Hearst Autos, 28 Oct. 2022, www.caranddriver.com/shopping-advice/a32494027/ev-vs-gas-cheaper-to-own/.

 

Comment on this article

ClimateYou moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (New York time) and can only accept comments written in English.

2 Responses

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog I myself 100% agree with you electric vehicles are one of the best solutions to lower carbon emissions

  2. Hi Ashley!

    I really enjoyed your article on electric vehicles and their potential to effectively reduce carbon emissions. This topic is incredibly relevant today as electric vehicles, particularly Tesla models, are becoming increasingly mainstream and popular. I learned something new from your discussion about how the majority of emissions from ICE vehicles come from their exhaust over the long term.

    One question I have is: how do you plan to market EVs to the public? While the biggest advantage of electric vehicles is their ability to reduce overall carbon emissions by not relying on gasoline, there are still some problems that need to be addressed. For instance, there have been reports of vandalism at charging stations, where people cut the wires and cables, making it impossible to charge vehicles. Wade Malone from InsideEvs states, “According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, wire theft has cost taxpayers $1.5 million just since 2021 on public property alone.”

    In addition, statistics indicate a decline in interest in purchasing EVs due to the lack of charging stations. Eric Revell from Fox Business notes, “Among car shoppers who said they’re ‘somewhat unlikely’ or ‘very unlikely’ to buy an EV, the lack of charging station availability was the leading reason given by respondents, with 52% citing that as the reason they’re less interested in EVs.” It seems the main issue deterring consumers is not the car design or functionality, but the safety and accessibility of charging ports.

    Sources:
    – Malone, Wade. “Electric Car Charger Vandalism Continues to Surge Nationwide.” Electric Car Charger Vandalism Continues To Surge Nationwide, InsideEVs, 16 May 2024, insideevs.com/news/719834/tesla-supercharger-copper-cables-vandalized/.
    – Revell, Eric. “Many US Consumers Staying Away from Evs Due to Lack of Charging Availability: Report.” Fox Business, Fox Business, 16 May 2024, http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/many-us-consumers-staying-away-ev-due-lack-charging-availability-report.

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