Yes, electric vehicles are greener than gas cars — even when they use dirty power
Author: Tim Levin
Studies comparing lifetime emissions of electric and gas-powered cars — from manufacturing through disposal — show that, by and large, driving a battery-powered vehicle is a massive win for the environment. That conclusion holds even when you consider that most electricity in the US currently comes from carbon-producing coal and natural gas and that making an EV isn't exactly a clean process. Lithium-ion batteries are central to EVs themselves and to the auto industry's broader electric reinvention. But mining the necessary cobalt, refining the lithium, and packaging it all into little cells that fit neatly in a larger pack creates significant greenhouse gas emissions. That means, perhaps counterintuitively, that "green" cars begin life with a heftier carbon footprint than their "dirty" counterparts. A medium-sized electric car leaves the factory responsible for 33%-57% greater emissions than a comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) one, the International Energy Agency says. But since EVs are significantly cleaner to operate, their environmental debt goes away relatively quickly once they hit the road. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analyzed how much pollution an electric car with average efficiency and a 300-mile range would generate over its lifetime if it charged using the 2020 US electrical grid, which was far from 100% renewable. It found that trading in a conventional, 32-mpg sedan for an electric one would slash greenhouse-gas emissions by 52%.