Electric carsW are generally better for the environment than regular cars. The emissions benefit of electric vehicles is strongly enhanced when they are charged by low carbon electricity sources. However, even if an electric car is charged from a predominantly coal and fossil methane powered electric grid, the lifetime emissions of the vehicle are very likely to be less than from an equivalent size and capability internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.

Burning a gallon of gasoline results in ~9000 gCO2 in direct tailpipe emissions,[1] but the extraction, refining, transport, and marketing of that gallon of gasoline requires at least ~3300 gCO2-eq of additional emissions, or ~12200gCO2 total per gallon.[2] Since mpg divided by mi / kWh for an equivalent ICE vehicle is approximately a factor of 10, we can conclude that an electric grid would need to be ~1220 gCO2/kWh to make operating an EV as "dirty" as burning gasoline in an ICE vehicle. Only electric grids that are nearly exclusively fueled by oil burning power plants, such as on the Canary Islands, approach this level of emissions.[3]

Put more simply, an EV charged from low carbon sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and nuclear will emit less per mile in operation than the fossil fuel industry wastes getting their fuel to market.

Regarding pollution while driving, electric vehicles create only 1% of the pollution generated from even the cleanest gasoline vehicles.[4]

Embodied emissions of an electric vehicle and its battery will vary by manufacturing technique, sources of battery materials, and the emissions of the energy sources used in the manufacturing process. Volvo and Fisker have produced detailed reports about the life cycle emissions of their vehicles. Based on these reports, battery manufacturing requires ~76 kgCO2-eq of emissions per kWh of installed gross battery capacity, though this number is decreasing over time. In regions with moderate electric grid emissions (e.g. ~400 gCO2-eq /kWh[5]), gross pack Wh divided by 3 will roughly result in the number of miles of operation needed to "break even" on lifetime emissions with an equivalent ICE vehicle. For example, a Tesla Model Y with 80,000 Wh of installed capacity would need to be driven approximately ~27,000 miles to have a total life cycle emissions of an equivalent ICE vehicle. Of course, the break even mileage will decrease substantially when the EV is charged from an electric grid with lower emissions. Only if an electric vehicle's lifespan is cut short via damage will the embodied energy emissions from their production not be offset by reduced emissions from their operations.

Electric cars running costs can be significantly more affordable than diesel or petrol, especially if charged from low cost residential or commercial electricity. For example, if electricity costs $0.15/kWh, this would be the equivalent of $1.50/gallon cost for gasoline. If the electricity comes from your own photovoltaic system, then recharging costs only what the "levelized cost of electricity" for the solar PV system was, often well below $0.10/kWh. Costs for charging from public DC fast charging (DCFC) stations can vary dramatically, from free at the low end to $0.75/kWh or more on the high end. EVs usually require less ongoing maintenance than ICE vehicles, as they do not require oil changes, regenerative braking cuts friction brake wear substantially, etc. Lower running costs are somewhat offset by slightly higher (~10-20%) costs to acquire the vehicle initially (though cost parity is expected circa 2025), possibly higher costs to insure versus an equivalent ICE vehicle, and possibly higher replacement costs for a battery and other electronic modules.

Modern EVs have ranges varying between 100 and 400 miles per charge, depending on model. As around 80% of drivers will drive less than 40 miles in a day , this range will suffice for most people's daily driving needs. As the popularity of electric vehicles continues to grow, it has become increasingly important to develop and maintain an adequate charging infrastructure. Unfortunately, more robust charging infrastructure is still lacking in many areas, especially rural areas, making route planning for long trips a greater requirement than in ICE vehicles.

To address this problem, we need to invest more resources into developing new charging stations that are reliable and cost-effective. This requires creating optimal locations for these stations as well as setting up a system of payment and support services to ensure their continued use. Overall, this issue deserves greater attention from policymakers and businesses alike. Providing adequate EV charging infrastructure can help improve access to clean transportation for millions of people.[6]

Advantages[edit | edit source]

Compared to internal combustion engine-powered cars:

  • They have less carbon dioxide emissions, which contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. Even though some electric cars may use power that comes from shale -which is even worse than coal- the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted is half that of the most efficient gas-powered cars. They have no tailpipe which eliminates emissions (again this is as long as the energy source is renewable).
  • They take no gasoline but rely on electricity from power grids and other forms of renewable energy such as windmills, solar panels, and so on.[7]
  • Aids in reducing urban air pollution.[8]
  • The batteries don't contain as many heavy metals as conventional cars. One well-known American luxury electric car manufacturer who make their own batteries uses aluminium - instead of manganese cathodes (that are used in every other production electric car in 2018).
  • Electric vehicles require almost none of the maintenance of conventional cars like oil changes and emissions check. Electric vehicles can provide nearly 1 million miles of service before needing maintenance.[9]
  • Noise pollution is reduced, especially in major cities. Electric vehicles have no muffler and there is no need for one because there is no engine, or ignition, so it has nothing to muffle. The cars are almost completely silent.
  • Reduces the dependency on foreign oil and the entire military infrastructure that is used to protect oil wells,pipelines and refineries. Purely electric vehicles take no gasoline, but uses alternative energy sources to generate electricity. In 2023 the UK produced 42% of its needs from renewables. All that was electrical energy, which is useless in a gasoline car.[10]
  • Lower costs: lower operating costs, lower maintenance costs and higher efficiency, plus exemptions from stamp duty and lower registration fees in some countries and states.[11]

Battery EVs are cleaner[edit | edit source]

There are also hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles you can look into, although the number of gas stations offering hydrogen is diminishing globally. 95% of hydrogen's global production comes from the fossil fuel industry in a process known as methane reforming. Methane leaks globally, are ubiquitous, extensive & 80X more effective than CO2 in its atmospheric warming effect. Of course, you can go for a plug-in hybrid as well. For that's the switch to burning petrol once your battery gets low. However it is still not the greenest option available.

Of course, we also have to note that running on electricity is still not completely green. Yet in most state's it's pretty darn green.

Electric cars represent the most environmentally friendly car fuel, as they have absolutely no emissions. The energy generated to power the electric car and the energy to move the car is 97 percent cleaner in terms of noxious pollutants.[12]

Lithium-ion batteries, which store three to four times more energy per unit mass than traditional batteries, are now used extensively in portable electronic devices (computers, cell phones, MP3 players, etc.). The positive electrode materials in these batteries are highly effective but too expensive to be used in the large batteries needed for electric vehicles and second generation hybrid vehicles. In the future, these applications may rely on lithium iron phosphate: it is environmentally friendly and has exceptional properties combined with low cost and good thermal stability (important for safety reasons). All these qualities make it the best candidate to be used in lithium batteries for future electric cars.[13]

History[edit | edit source]

Fig:1 Who killed the electric car?

Electric propulsion was first used in vehicles other than cars. The locomotive was the first fully electrical vehicle and was created by Werner Von Siemens.[14] The first fully electric type of transport in US America was a rail operation in 1888 created by General Electric.

By the year 1891 a man named William Morrison put an electric motor in a car. Electric cars were supposed to be the car of the future and got a lot of attention in the 1890's and early 1900's.[15] However due to a breakthrough in internal combustion engines, cars that used gasoline ruled the 1900's. Now in the 21st century, hybrids and electric cars are making a comeback due to the push for green modes of transport and current high prices of petrofuels (gasoline, Diesel, LPG,...).

Types[edit | edit source]

Types of electric cars.[16]

There are different types of electric cars. Some have only one engine, which is (of course) electric. The problem is, that the range of such a car is still quite short. In the future, when battery-technology is better and batteries' capacity will be higher and the costs will be lower, pure electric cars will be more popular.

In order to increase the range of these electric cars there are different types, such as hybrid cars. These are vehicles use a technology that combines electric and combustion engines. The ways, how combustion engines are used in these cars, are different:

  • The combustion engine produces energy to run the electric engine. In these technology the fuel-driven engine is used as a generator.
  • The combustion engine is only used, when the car accelerates strongly. So the car needs no fuel when you drive slowly or break. This system is called "Series Drivetrain"
  • The electric engine is only used when the car accelerates. When the car drives slowly or you cruise, energy from the engine gets stored in the battery. You call this system "Parallel Drivetrain".
  • When you drive slowly, only the electric engine is used. When you accelerate, the fuel-driven engine engages, but not all its power is transferred to the gear: A power drives the gear and a generator that produces electric energy, which is stored in the battery. This technology is called "Series-Parallel Drivetrain".

These different technologies also have some similarities: they use the energy of the breaks. So the engines are used as generators when the car slows down. The produced energy can be stored in the battery and the range of the car increases a bit.

Battery-electric cars[edit | edit source]

Inside of electric cars.[17]

Battery-electric cars are in a class of their own when it comes to saving gas. They all have Lithium Ion batteries of slightly different chemistries. Due to the fact that it's uses only a battery to power the electric motor,[18] it uses no gas. The distance you can travel with it greatly depends on the load, and speed. You will need to use more energy on heating (but much less on cooling), which reduces the miles range. Depending on how much it has to carry, the load will affect how hard the battery has to work. If you like to go fast, don't expect to go far. Like most cars, BEV's can travel further at a controlled comfortable speed. That range depends on the model. The definitive guide is, what is the KWhr battery:curb weight (Kg) ratio. A good ratio is 0.020; a bad one is.036. A bad one tells you that the car has not been designed originally as an electric.

Currently, advice from manufacturers is that extension leads cannot be used for charging at a normal household outlet. This is not true. Normal extension leads use twisted copper for flexibility. However household wiring cable can be used for charging. A 30 Metre cable for an 12 Amp 240V load is possible, however, household wiring cable is not designed to be handled regularly, as it is stiff, so use large loops of it and handle it carefully to avoid any kinks in the cable. Alternatively, use a heavy duty extension cable. A very useful amount of charge can be gained in just 2 hours. Use the BEV user manual to estimate how much extra range you will get.

BEV's (Plug-in cars or Electric cars). They are simple in construction (one Californian company uses 10K parts [25-30K parts in a conventional car]) and like a DVD drive or laptop battery, need little maintenance; brakes are not used as much as in a gas car as there is considerable braking effect when the vehicle re-generates while slowing down. Servicing costs are much lower than gas cars (which typically have 20-30,000 parts), especially as the vehicle ages. Various battery leasing schemes are available that typically guarantee a 80-90% performance. My car has 85k miles and has not needed any parts (apart from tyres & windscreen wipers & a12v lead acid battery [$70]). Its RANGE is the approximately 15% less. Range can be improved by gentle (not slow) cornering & taking a warm coat instead of using the heater and the tyre pressures MUST be correct, not low. All BEV cars (2020) have fast charging (7-22kW) capability which provides 20-30 miles per hour of charging. Vehicles are the simplest of all cars to drive & every passenger says how silent and trouble-free the experience is. Many drivers say BEV's have put the fun back into motoring.

Approximate costs

Purchase costs are higher than a gas car but this is offset by very low running costs (approximately 1/6th that of the most efficient gas car). A typical UK micro hatchback Electric car in the UK (if the decision is to throw the car away after 10 years) is likely to save £6500 over a similar gas car (on a 10,000 mile per year basis). After the decade, the range will very gradually reduce, but the servicing savings will be even more beneficial. Various local schemes exist for free parking in cities, and over 185,500,000 lock-able electric points are listed (2020) on [1]. There are 37,500 public charge points -more than gas stations-in the UK (Jan 2021). Slow rate charging (3kW) is often supplied in unlimited amounts in the UK for a monthly payment (usually approximately £20 -2020).

Fast rate charging (7-22kW) & rapid (25-99kW) charging is costed at a kWhr rate by the supplier & provides 50+ miles extra range per hour of charging. There are 92,000 UK public charging connectors (2024).

Green issues

The CO2e for manufacture of a conventional mid-range petrol car is approximately 17 Tonnes; for a traditional car manufacturer converting an existing petrol model to electric, it is approximately 10-15 Tonnes; for the newest only-electric car manufacturer from the USA, it is 5.1 Tonnes (most of the manufacturing is with renewable energy).

To have guilt-free motoring it is possible to buy renewable power from a firm that actually has wind turbines or grid-scale solarPV (marginally more expensive but those costs have already been factored in above).

A number of BEV owners adopt or have previously installed solar PV micro generation at home or the workplace. As most cars are in use in daylight, it is reasonable to consider home or workplace solar electricity storage. For a home setup of 4-7kW solar panel array, using a hatchback-sized BEV, battery storage of 10-15 kWhrs is commonly installed and allows the car to be run without cost in sunny periods. Cloudy conditions generate approximately 20% of bright conditions. Using the above as an example, a payback period of 10-12 yrs would be typical, meaning the system would be able to generate free energy for the next 10-12yrs.

BEV makers provide different metrics about how efficient their vehicle are. The main metric should be km/kWhr or miles/kWhr, but many use other metrics. A simple way to assess if a BEV will be efficient is to decide if the car will slip through the air easily; that the front is 'slippery'. To make sense of, say, '200Whrs/mile' efficiency, express the 200 as a proportion of 1000 (to make it 'kWh' ). That equals 0.2. Then invert the 0.2 (1 / 0.2 = 5). That is the car drives for 5 miles / kWhr. ( A domestic kWhr in the UK mid 2024 costs £0.23 on daytime rates or £0.07 night time rates.

To compare the emissions of a petrol ('gas') car versus a BEV use this link.

Fossil fuel lobbyists publish many articles on the effects of mining of cobalt. However, since 2004, the metal has been used in a non-recyclable way to make low sulphur fuels globally. As of 2024, only a very small proportion of BEV's use this metal in batteries. Of the global production of cobalt 98% of it is a by-product of mining copper or nickel; 2% being primary-mined. Only a few artisan mines remain, producing very small relative quantities.

Fossil fuel lobbyists also over-promote any fires occurring in BEVs or hybrids. Some, very old (12-15yr old cars) did have battery management issues, however these have all been improved. In 2023, the CEO of LEX Autolease in the UK - Chris Chandler - said that of the 165,000 EVs and BEVs the firm leases out, there were zero fires. In the same year a Scandinavian study concluded that ICE vehicles were 70-80 times more likely to catch fire than any electric vehicle.

Conventional hybrid-electric cars[edit | edit source]

Hybrid-electric cars[19] use both gas and electricity to propel the car. Almost all hybrid cars have a completely different ( less effective, much shorter life & lower cost ) battery chemistry (Nickel metal Hydride) to BEVs (Lithium Ion). Cars running on a IC engine ('ICE') typically use a lot of gas at times when they come to a stop or pick up speed after a stop.[20] The electric motor is used to eliminate the siphoning of gas at these particular moments. In a (series-)parallel hybrid-electric car, the electric motor is used when a car is idle until a speed of 30- 40 mph. Past 40 miles, the other half of the hybrid system - known as the internal combustion engine - takes over. This is a switchable function. The hybrid gets its name from being able to use both the electrical motor and the combustion engine. It may also charge the battery by using the kinetic energy from braking and redirecting that energy back to the engine. An example of a hybrid would be the Toyota Prius.[21] In terms of CO2e for manufacture and use ('well to wheel'), all hybrid cars have little environmental benefit, most of the benefit is in fuel saving and reduced pollution in cities. They are complicated to service, so a reliable brand is recommended.

Plug-in hybrid-electric cars[edit | edit source]

Plug-in hybrid-electric cars are a subdivision of the hybrid-electric car. Almost all hybrid cars have a completely different ( less effective, much shorter life & lower cost ) battery chemistry (Nickel metal Hydride) to BEVs (Lithium Ion). PE-cars (Plug-in hybrid cars) have a slightly larger battery than hybrid cars. MOST HAVE AN ELECTRIC RANGE OF 20-30 MILES. A longer charge making it possible to avoid using the internal combustion engine for a few miles more.[22] As long as the car isn't used passed the point of its all-electric range, the Plug-in hybrid is able to avoid using any petrol at all. Large hybrid cars are less environmentally friendly than a very small gas car in terms of fuel consumption and a number of studies show that the electric motor is used between 5 and 20% of the travelling time. One criticism of this class of vehicle concerns the charging time. THE MAXIMUM CHARGE RATE OF ALL HYBRID CARS IS ONLY 3KW. (That is 1/75th the rate of the fastest CCS or Cha de Mo charging stations. The hybrid-electric car is designed to be charged at night, not at public points because a plug-in hybrid can occupy a slot for 4 times as long as a fully electric car needs on a MEDIUM speed (7-25 KW) point. Additionally, a fully electric car will benefit from 5 times the range in the same period of time. A number of manufacturers who are entering the market with VERY HEAVY conventional cars with a small added battery and small electric motor seem to pay 'lip-service' to green principles. Servicing for an old hybrid car will be very expensive because of the unnecessary complexity.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Gasoline Explained - Gasoline and the Environment. US Energy Information Agency (EIA). Updated 2022 Dec 29. Accessed 2024 Apr 04.
  2. Emissions from Oil and Gas Operations in Net Zero Transitions, IEA, May 2023, accessed 2024 April 04.
  3. Electricity Maps
  4. American Lung Association
  5. Carbon intensity of electricity generation by Our World in Data. Updated 2023 Dec 12. Accessed 2024 Apr 04.
  6. We need more electric vehicle charging stations. The Green Living Guy
  7. U.S. Department of Energy Argonne's Transportation technology Research Development Center
  8. Sperling, Daniel "Future Drive: Electric vehicles and Sustainable Transportation"
  9. "Plug-in Hybrids, The Cars That Will Recharge America" by Sherry Boschert
  10. Anderson, Curtis D., and Judy "Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History" 2nd Ed
  11. The Ultimate Electric Cars Buying Guide
  16. With permission of
  17. With permission of
  20. They even consume more fuel than required when they simply run at any speed below/over their optimum cruise speed
  21. Toyota Prius is a specific type of parallel hybrid car, called the series-parallel hybrid car, see the drivetrain design here

External links[edit | edit source]

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