Dirty Secrets of ‘Clean’ Electric Cars

“The supposed advantages of EVs in emitting lower carbon emissions are overstated according to a peer-reviewed life-cycle study comparing conventional and electric vehicles (“Comparative Environment Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles,” Journal of Industrial Ecology). To begin with, about half the lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to produce the car, especially in the mining and processing of raw materials needed for the battery. This compares unfavorably with the manufacture of a gasoline-powered car which accounts for 17% of the car’s lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions. When a new EV appears in the show-room, it has already caused 30,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emission. The equivalent amount for manufacturing a conventional car is 14,000 pounds. Once on the road, the carbon dioxide emissions of EVs depends on the power-generation fuel used to recharge its battery. If it comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, it will lead to about 15 ounces of carbon-dioxide for every mile it is driven–three ounces more than a similar gasoline-powered car. Even without reference to the source of electricity used for battery charging, if an EV is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the EV will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles. Even if the EV is driven for 90,000 miles and the battery is charged by cleaner natural-gas fueled power stations, it will cause just 24% less carbon-dioxide emission than a gasoline-powered car. As the skeptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg puts it, ‘This is a far cry from zero emissions.’”

“The Dirty Secrets of ‘Clean’ Electric Vehicles,” Forbes, Aug. 2, 2020