Are Electric Cars Really Better For The Environment?

In the past decade or so, electric cars have been on the rise as people look for ways to lower their emissions and be more environmentally friendly. Electric vehicles have come a long way in terms of range and performance, and even EV sceptics are starting to go electric. With so many benefits, it’s no wonder that electric cars are becoming more popular.

One of the key benefits and selling points of electric cars is that they’re better for the environment. EVs are commonly described as “zero-emission” and adverts promote their green credentials. It’s why governments worldwide are banning petrol and diesel car sales from 2030. Those bans have led to most major manufacturers announcing their decisions to go all-electric in the next decade. 

But are electric cars really better for the environment? It’s a question that many people are asking, and, to be honest, it’s a complicated question to answer. If you’re considering buying or leasing an electric car, we’ve put together everything you need to know about the environmental impact of electric vehicles so you can make your decision based on facts. 

Is Driving An Electric Car Better For The Environment? 

One of the significant criticisms of electric cars is that they’re not as eco-friendly as manufacturers want you to believe. You’ve probably seen headlines about how electric vehicles aren’t as eco-friendly as you think

Critics of electric cars often point out that describing electric vehicles as “zero-emission” is misleading as they still indirectly contribute to emissions. However, when an electric vehicle is on the road, it produces zero tailpipe emissions. This is because EVs don’t produce harmful exhaust fumes that pollute both the local and global environment. They don’t have an exhaust — full stop. 

If you look at the Audi Q3, which has a petrol engine, it produces around 130g of CO2 per kilometre. Compare that with the Audi E-Tron, which is roughly the same size and produces zero direct carbon emissions. In fact, compare it with any electric car of any size, and it will have far lower lifetime emissions. 

Mass adoption of electric cars will see carbon emissions drop significantly on a global scale. But it will also help locally by improving air quality in towns and cities, which can save lives

Is Recharging Better Than Refuelling For The Environment?

While electric cars don’t produce any direct emissions on the road, they need to be recharged using electricity. In almost every country, electricity production still relies on fossil fuels to some degree. 

Every country has a different energy mix meaning that in some places, EVs are much better for the environment and, in others, less so. For example, in 2021,  43% of the UK’s energy mix came from fossil fuels. In comparison, Norway’s energy mix is over 90% renewable. For this reason, it’s difficult to pin down the exact environmental impact of recharging an electric car. 

But if you compare it to refuelling a petrol or diesel car, the difference is noticeable. The production process of fuel for internal combustion engines (ICE) creates a massive amount of CO2 emissions. According to a recent investigation into fuel production emissions, petrol production creates around 3,000 grams of carbon per litre. 

Does Electric Car Production Harm The Environment? 

The most significant criticism of electric cars is that the environmental impact of EV production is much higher than ICE vehicles. There’s no denying that this is true, and a recent European Environmental Agency report confirms it. 

Most emissions from EV production come from the sourcing of raw materials and battery production. Currently, most EV batteries are produced in Asia and predominantly in China. In China, up to 50% of EV production emissions come from battery production, and this is due to China’s reliance on carbon to create electricity. 

Alongside the environmental cost of battery production, EVs also require various raw materials like cobalt and lithium. These raw materials need to be mined, which involves using a lot of energy derived from fossil fuels. 

But there are some critical considerations. The first is that the electric market is still emerging, and as electric cars become more established and popular, the environmental impact will become more efficient. Alongside that, China has announced that it will use more renewable energy by 2025, which will see production emissions drop. 

The final consideration is that manufacturers are putting together comprehensive recycling procedures to drastically reduce the need for raw material mining. Volkswagen claims they will soon recycle over 90% of EV raw materials. 

Read: Hybrid & electric car questions answered

So, Are Electric Cars Really Better For The Environment?

There’s no doubt that electric vehicles are better for the environment. There’s certainly plenty of room for improvement with more renewable energy and the recycling of raw materials. But even with current production procedures, EVs produce up to 50% less harmful emissions than ICE vehicles over their lifetime. 

If you’re thinking about switching to an electric car, you can rest assured that you’ll be helping the environment. But electric vehicles aren’t just good for the environment; they’re far more economical than petrol or diesel cars, especially with rising fuel prices

While the cost of a new EV is generally slightly higher than a petrol or diesel car, you can make drastic savings on fuel by making the most of government grants and tax exemptions. Plus, you can get behind the wheel of an EV with car leasing and financing for an affordable monthly cost. 

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