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Effect of Technology: How Electric Cars Are Going to Harm The Environment

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Electric cars, Such as Tesla’s and Leaf’s, are all the rage being advertised as a new ‘eco-friendly’ way of car travel. But that may not be the case, as they COULD be as bad as fossil fueling vehicles, if not a tad better, in their own way.Nissan advertises the Leaf as being a “100% electric” vehicle that generates “zero emis-sions.”

But, according to Bjorn Lomborg, writing in a 2013, March 11th, Wall Street Journal, that is incorrectConsider these facts from Bjorn’s article:

1. A 2012 comprehensive life-cycle analysis in the Journal of Industrial Ecology shows that almost half the lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to produce the car, espe-cially the battery. The mining of lithium, for instance, is a less than green activity. When an electric car rolls off the production line, it has already been responsible for 30,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emission.

2. By contrast, the manufacture of a gas-powered car accounts for 17% of its lifetime carbon-dioxide emis-sions. The amount for making a conventional car: 14,000 pounds.

3. The life-cycle analysis shows that for every mile driven, the average electric car indirectly emits about six ounces of carbon-dioxide. This is still a lot better than a similar-size conventional car, which emits about 12 ounces per mile. But remember, the production of the electric car has already resulted in sizeable emis-sions—the equivalent of 80,000 miles of travel in the vehicle.

4. If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufac-ture means the car will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles. Similarly, if the energy used to recharge the electric car comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, it will be responsible for the emission of almost 15 ounces of carbon-dioxide for every one of the 50,000 miles it is driven—three ounces more than a similar gas-powered car.

5. Even if the electric car is driven for 90,000 miles and the owner stays away from coal-powered electricity, the car will cause just 24% less carbon-dioxide emission than its gas-powered cousin. This is a far cry from “zero emissions.” Over its entire lifetime, the electric car will be responsible for 8.7 tons of carbon dioxide less than the average conventional car.

6. Those 8.7 tons may sound like a considerable amount, but it’s not. The current best estimate of the glob-al warming damage of an extra ton of carbon-dioxide is about $5. This means an optimistic assessment of the avoided carbon-dioxide associated with an electric car will allow the owner to spare the world about $44 in climate damage. On the European emissions market, credit for 8.7 tons of carbon-dioxide costs $48.

7. Yet the U.S. federal government essentially subsidizes electric-car buyers with up to $7,500.

In addition, more than $5.5 billion in federal grants and loans go directly to battery and electric-car manufac-turers. This is a very poor deal for taxpayers. Another article explaining how Electric Cars may not be the best solution comes from David C. Holzman:In an effort to boost sales the Chinese government recently announced it would waive the 10% sales tax on domestic electric cars on top of government subsidies total-ing up to $19,000 per car. But despite their green reputation, on a per-kilometer basis electric cars in China cause over 3.5 times more air pollution–related premature deaths than gasoline-powered cars, according to new estimates calculated for the country’s 34 largest cities.

In the study, the researchers calculated emissions per person-km traveled—that is, a person traveling 1 km in a vehicle (if 15 people travel 10 km in a bus, the bus accumulates 150 person-km). They considered five vehicle types: electric cars (not including hybrids), electric bicycles and scooters (e-bikes), gasoline cars, diesel cars, and diesel buses. They estimated tailpipe emissions for gasoline and diesel vehicles based on emissions standards and figures published in the peer-reviewed literature. Electric vehicles do not produce combustion emissions themselves; instead, their emissions impact comes from the power plants that pro-duce the electricity they use.

The vast majority of electricity in China is coal-fired (compared with slightly less than 50% in the United States). Electric vehicle emissions derive not from gasoline or diesel but from coal and other energy sources used to power the electricity grid.Although vehicle-specific mortality varied greatly from city to city, electric cars were estimated to cause more premature deaths than gasoline cars in 33 of the 34 cities sur-veyed. “Emissions from coal-fired power plants are comparatively high in China because of lower-quality coal and fewer plants using emission-control technologies,” explains report coauthor Julian D. Marshall, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.In Shanghai, for instance, power-plant emissions associated with electric cars caused an estimated 26 excess deaths annually per 10 billion person-km versus 9 excess deaths for gasoline cars. Diesel cars caused an estimat-ed 90 excess deaths per 10 billion person-km. Diesel buses, which have lower emissions per person-km than diesel cars because they carry more people, caused an estimated 32 excess deaths, and e-bikes per-formed the best, causing only 3 estimated excess deaths per 10 billion person-km per year.

Not surprisingly, the implications of this research for other countries are variable. Vietnam, for example, depends much more on natural gas and hydropower than coal for its electric power, says Cherry, such that electric cars there cause one-third as much pollution as gasoline cars and one-tenth as much pollution over-all as they do in China. Conversely, he says, in India, average power-sector emissions of PM2.5 are 10% greater than in China, causing more pollution per kilometer per electric car.“It is important to remember that electric vehicles are only as clean as the electricity that charges them, and a clean energy future includes both electric vehicles and a cleaner electricity grid,” says Don Anair, a senior analyst and engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Anair notes that the U.S. grid is cleaner than China’s as a result of clean-air regulations and increased investment in renewable electricity (the U.S. investment in renewable en-ergy ranks second in the world, just behind China). The emissions intensity of the U.S. grid—that is, the emissions per unit of power produced—will continue to improve as older, unimproved coal-fired plants are retired, he says.

A report from the UCS released in April 2012 found that even in the U.S. region with the most emissions-intensive electricity grid, greenhouse-gas emissions attributable to electric vehicles are equivalent to those produced by gasoline cars that get 31–40 miles per gallon. That report did not address mortality attributable to PM2.5 exposure.Electric Cars are, obviously, NOT the answer, and Gasoline cars are the safer and, still, the more ecologically friendly. BUT they WILL become a necessity once we run out of Fossil Fuels to abuse. With the help of this graph:By 2061 at MOST, the world will have to switch away from Gas powered cars, and by 2091 COAL powered Factories and Machines will need to be replaced with something new. The world will have to change, if we want to change this data in a major way, but as it stands, these depletion dates are only going to come to fruition SOONER. Coal is mined mainly with power tools, sometimes pow-ered with Gas or Oil, and that requires for THOSE fuels to be mined causing MORE damage to the environment.

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Effect of Technology: How Electric Cars are Going to Harm the Environment. (2018, January 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from
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