what is the environmental impact of electric cars

What is the Environmental Impact of Electric Cars?

Jane Marsh - June 16, 2021

We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn affiliate commission.

The environmental movement is redefining our modern lifestyles. Green technology shrinks our carbon footprint while promoting a sustainable economy. We may view solar-paneled roofs, energy-conserving thermostats and electric cars in the residential sector, promoting ecological conservation.

As commercial and residential communities adopt eco-friendly technology, some may question its environmental effects. Before evaluating the benefits and challenges of electric cars, we must examine their origin.

The Electric Car Boom

Tesla is a household term, partly because of vehicle automation and also environmental sustainability. Conventional vehicles emit large quantities of air pollution into the atmosphere, negatively affecting the climate. Electric cars provide a sustainable solution to ecologically degrading emissions.

The electric car boom altered the motor vehicle market. Most companies released, or are developing, electric versions of their cars. General Motors developed a plan to eliminate gasoline-powered car and light vehicle sales by 2035, generating solely electric models.

Before society blindly accepts the market’s transformation, it is essential to identify the environmental impact of the alteration. Various companies exploit eco-conscious consumers through greenwashing. The term signifies a business’s use of eco-friendly terms to promote sales, even when their practices are not sustainable.

Consumers can protect themselves from greenwashing by researching their products’ environmental impacts.

Environmental Benefits

Exploring the environmental benefits of electric vehicles is essential before making a purchase. The most significant draw to the product is its reduction of air pollution. The transportation sector currently accounts for 30% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the single largest contributor.

When we use electric vehicles instead of gasoline-powered cars, we reduce the enhanced greenhouse effect. It is a variation of the Earth’s natural warming process. When sunlight hits the planet, the atmosphere absorbs radiation, using it to maintain life-sustaining temperatures.

Organically, the atmosphere converts some light into heat and sends excess energy to Earth’s surface. After warming the surface, it releases additional heat back to the atmosphere. Naturally occurring gases reabsorb the heat and release unnecessary warmth into space.

When society emits greenhouse gases into the environment, they alter the natural warming process. Air pollutants convert sunlight to heat at a higher rate than other elements. They also trap heat on Earth rather than releasing it into space. Over time, entrapment and warmth production increase the global temperature.

As the planet warms, the global ecosystem degrades, causing fatal issues. Electric cars reduce the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, conserving the environment. They emit zero tailpipe or direct carbon emissions.

When charged with renewable energy, electric vehicles can optimize sustainable transportation. Solar or wind-powered cars protect society’s health by reducing air pollution. Only about half of Americans breathe healthy air, causing various developmental and breathing problems.

Cars with zero tailpipe emissions protect the health of future generations. They also protect the ocean from oil runoff and spills. When oil pollutes marine habitats, species suffer reproductive, growth and fatal effects. Fortunately, green technology prevents further aquatic destruction.

Environmental Challenges

Electric cars offer solutions to environmental problems. The technology is still new, causing some sustainability challenges. One significant obstacle with electric vehicle development is production sourcing.

Renewable energy accounts for nearly 17% of the U.S. electricity source. The rest of our power derives from coal and fossil fuels, which both release carbon emissions. Most motor vehicle production facilities run on these “dirty” power sources.

The sustainability of electric cars degrades when companies release greenhouse gases in developmental stages. The U.S. is working to incorporate more renewable energy sources in production. As clean energy prices drop, our ability to generate zero-emission vehicles will increase.

Lithium-ion batteries also pose a sustainability conflict for the electric vehicle industry. The batteries contain cobalt, causing workers health complications and ethical dilemmas. The Democratic Republic of the Congo mines about 65% of the global cobalt supply, using over 40,000 children as miners.

Cobalt mining has adverse effects on children, placing their wellbeing and longevity at risk. High concentrations of heavy metals are present in these miners’ urine, signifying health issues. Fortunately, sizable electric vehicle companies like Tesla are developing car batteries without the harmful element.    

Future Advancements

The U.S. is working on cleaning up its electric grid. They plan to source their grid energy from renewable systems, eliminating the pollution associated with electric vehicle charging. Once they establish a clean transformation, we can eliminate transportation emissions.

Large motor vehicle companies like BMW are further reducing pollution by repurposing their expired electric car parts. They use car batteries with degraded efficiency to store renewable energy. Some of the power will go towards charging electric cars, creating a sustainable loop.

Make a Difference

Individuals can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation sector. Investing in residential renewable energy and electric vehicles can significantly reduce pollution. You may talk to local government officials about supporting clean public transportation further benefits ecological conservation.

About the author

Jane Marsh

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.