The future will be traveled in an electric car. Seventy-one percent of Americans plan to buy an electric vehicle in the future — chances are, you’re one of them.
Every major automaker currently sells electric cars or has plans in the works. In the near future, there will be electric trucks, convertibles, and even more compact, mid-size, and SUV models rolled out. Major automakers like GM and Ford are investing billions into electric vehicle (EV) production over the next few years, with Ford committing to electrify all of its passenger cars by 2030, and GM pledging 30 new EVs by 2025 and a complete transition to all-electric cars and SUVs by 2035. It’s clear that the age of the electric vehicle has arrived. The switch to EVs is driven primarily by consumer demand for environmentally friendly transportation options. It is also backed by the federal government, which is leaning heavily on EVs to address climate change.
But are electric cars really better for the environment than gasoline-powered cars?
YES — in more ways than one.
Electric cars reduce air pollution
Are electric car actually better for the environment? Well, fossil fuel or gasoline-powered cars run on an internal combustion engine (ICE) that releases a lot of pollution through the exhaust pipes. Not only do they release planet-warming CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gas emissions, but they also spew toxic chemicals such as nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds, fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, and lead. Researchers have linked vehicle tailpipe emissions to nearly 360,000 premature deaths per year worldwide; some found 200,000 premature deaths in the United States alone. What’s more, the health impacts of gas-powered cars are not felt equally by all. Low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to live in areas with dangerous levels of air pollution, particularly from gas petrol-powered cars. These groups are also more likely to suffer from lung and heart problems.
Electric vehicles, by comparison, produce zero direct emissions. Switching to EVs offers a great opportunity to clean up the air in your community. The more people that switch to EVs, the cleaner the air will be for everyone.
Electric cars reduce lifecycle emissions
When deciding whether or not something is environmentally friendly, you’ll want to take the entire lifecycle emissions into consideration. This means the energy that it requires to extract raw materials, manufacture, operate, and eventually get rid of the car (usually through resale).
It takes energy to build an electric car — just as it does with a conventional vehicle. But the energy savings you get with driving a zero-emissions vehicle more than makes up for the energy it takes to build. Within six to sixteen months, your electric vehicle will already have lower lifecycle emissions than a gasoline-powered car.
And as EV production increases, manufacturing emissions for electric vehicles will go down with more efficient extraction and EV battery recycling technologies. All told, from cradle to grave, new electric cars generate just half the emissions as those from a comparable gasoline-powered car.
Meanwhile, with more electric vehicles on the market, you’ll be more and more likely to purchase one secondhand — in which case, the only emissions that count will be the ones that power your car.