Are electric cars really that much better?
Not too long ago, the idea of electric cars cruising our roads seemed like a far-fetched fantasy. Now, the rollout of electric vehicles worldwide has taken the market by storm, with major selling points including fancy hardware and big touch screens, low running costs, and a reduced environmental impact. The idea of ‘charging’ your electric car instead of filling it up with petrol or diesel seems far more environmentally friendly on the surface and has been a vital contributor to the sale of electric cars worldwide. Global sales increased 39% in 2020 to 3.1 million units. But just how green are they? We at VouchForMe want to make sure consumers are aware of the known and not-so-known environmental issues surrounding electric cars.
Where did they come from?
The invention of electric cars cannot be awarded to one particular individual or team, as many attempts and iterations at an electric vehicle were made in the 19th century. The first practical electric car, however, was invented in 1884 by Thomas Parker.
At the turn of the 20th century, electric cars saw a rise in popularity among urban residents. They were a pleasure to drive, quiet, and didn’t emit ugly, odorous fumes. Popularity increased alongside the implementation of electricity in cities, with electric cars accounting for 30% of all US vehicles in the 1910s.
The popularity dwindled for a while, as cheap, gas-powered cars became widely available well into the 20th century, and suited those who lived in rural areas not yet blessed with electricity. Fast forward to 2006, however, and Tesla began its production of luxury sports cars, promising a range of 320km on one charge. Spurring on competitors to roll out their own variants, Tesla has set the gold standard continues to explore the future potential of electric vehicles.
What are some benefits?
Electric cars have no shortage of benefits. They’re sleek and are lightning-fast in their start-up and acceleration times. Highly digitised, top tier brands such as Tesla allow users to control charging from their smartphone, and have an in-built entertainment, music and navigation system. Extensive electricity grids have enabled the implementation of an ever-growing number of charging points; electric car drivers may never have to visit a gas station again!
Some not-so-known environmental issues
All of that being said, electric cars leave their own carbon footprint. Emissions in the production stage range from 15-68% higher than those of a gas car, depending on vehicle size. Recent studies from China on the manufacturing phase suggest cars with internal combustion engines emit about 10.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂) per car, compared to roughly 13 tonnes per electric car.
Additionally, the recycling phase of an electric car emits 33% more carbon dioxide than a regular gas car. This is largely to do with the difficulty in recycling the lithium batteries within electric cars.
Our quick picks!
Our picks for the best eco-friendly cars out there are:
- BMW i3: 40 minutes until 80% charge, with an interior made up of renewable and recyclable plastics and fibres
- Nissan Leaf: A zero-emissions (after manufacture) vehicle, with 25% of manufacture being from recycled materials
- Tesla Model S: A stunning, zero-emissions vehicle with ultra-low running costs and a charge range of 300km
Gas still prevails, but at a price
The popularity of gas vehicles hasn’t wavered completely, however. They are still more powerfull, are generally a lot cheaper to purchase with lower maintenance than their electric counterparts, and tend to be a lot more agile, especially when it comes to acceleration and speed.
Unfortunately, consumption of gasoline heavily pollutes the environment, with 1.7 billion tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere every year in the US alone according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The release of nitrous oxide also contributes to smog in big cities.
The future is bright
In conclusion, it is disingenuous to claim that electric vehicles produce zero carbon emissions, as is clear in the manufacturing phase. However, the total environmental impact over their lifetime, including manufacture, is still 18% less than that of gas cars. We at VouchForMe are excited for the future of environment friendly cars, where we hope manufacturing emissions will be significantly reduced, and green electric cars the standard.
Businesswire, Global Electric Vehicle Sales up 39% in 2020 as Overall Car Market Collapses
Interesting Engineering, A Brief History and Evolution
EVBox, The history of electric cars
The Conversation, Climate explained: the environmental footprint of electric versus fossil cars